Employee Wellness Works
What happens when a workforce collaborates with a team of doctors to focus on preventive health and weight loss? Workers lose weight, improve their cholesterol and blood pressure levels and workplace injuries decrease. This was the outcome of an innovative workplace wellness program created by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) for Graniterock, a Watsonville-based construction materials and services company.
When Henry Thai, M.D., an internal medicine doctor at PAMF’s Palo Alto Center, first met Bruce Woolpert, CEO of the Graniterock construction supply company in Watsonville, Woolpert was overweight and faced hypertension. By working with Dr. Thai and making small tweaks to his diet and lifestyle, Woolpert lost 40 pounds and normalized his blood pressure. Woolpert was so inspired that he decided he wanted all of his team members to have access to the same care.
“For companies like Graniterock, investing in preventive medicine, such as a weight loss and exercise program, is both socially responsible and important in reducing health care and workers compensation costs,” says Dr. Thai.
To replicate Woolpert’s experience, PAMF launched the “(Healthy)me: Healthy to the Power of Me” employee wellness program. Dr. Thai created an educational booklet for Graniterock about weight management, exercise and a healthy diet. He also recruited six doctors from PAMF to provide on-site care at Graniterock locations in the Bay Area. The pilot program began in June 2008 and ran for six months. Due to the great success of the program, Graniterock committed to extending the program in 2009. Today, PAMF remains involved with Graniterock employee wellness and provides weekly health tips to the employee newsletter to help employees stay on track with their wellness goals.
How the Program Worked
Graniterock team members who signed up for the program were screened for health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. During the first one-on-one visit, the doctors reviewed their screening results and helped them set personal goals that would motivate them, such as fitting into a favorite pair of jeans or playing with their children or grandchildren without being winded. Then, Graniterock team members worked with their PAMF doctors to develop a set of individual lifestyle modifications that would help the employee reach his or her personal goals. At follow-up visits, team members were offered additional tips to either continue their progress or get back on track.
“This gave them great motivation to stick with lifestyle changes and get extra help if needed,” explains Dr. Thai. “A lot of diet plans are too complicated to be effective. Instead, we concentrated on a small number of simple changes, such as having frequent snacks in between meals to avoid the temptation to overeat and at the same time increase the basal metabolic rate.
At the end of our second year with the Graniterock (Healthy)me program, we tried to improve on the first year’s success by taking advantage of technology and added the webcam. This also improved engagement and compliance by helping patients not have to drive to see the doctor.”
During the six-month program, Graniterock team members lost a total of more than 1,300 pounds, their cholesterol and blood pressure levels improved, and workplace injuries decreased.
Graniterock saw high-risk levels drop: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) reduced by 10 percent, triglyceride reduced by 5 percent, and cholesterol/HDL by 5 percent. Furthermore, recommended glucose levels were increased by 6 percent, diabetic levels of glucose were reduced by 4 percent, and body fat percentage levels in obese males were reduced by 10 percent. And the employees were overwhelmingly pleased with the program. “The patients loved it and there was great compliance,” said Dr. Thai.
“The program was great and I’m really glad I joined, said Kyle McLean, project engineer at the Pavex San Jose office. “I have had challenges with staying up on my exercise, but the PAMF team’s encouragement to get in a routine and eat healthy will not be forgotten.”
“Because the (Healthy)me program began with screenings and consultations, employees were involved and informed from the onset,” said Diana Villegas, who works in the Accounting Services department at the Graniterock corporate office in Watsonville. “The explanation of my screening results was understandable and I appreciate all of the encouragement provided,” said Villegas.
“This program helped me become aware of health issues and understand what I need to do to stay healthy,” says one program participant. “After the last weigh in, I am happy to be 10 pounds lighter. I feel great!”
“The program formulated and implemented by Dr. Thai was just the right blend of well delivered advice and regular physician follow-up that encouraged individual success. Our team members will no doubt benefit from a higher quality of life into their older age,” said Woolpert.