Monday, June 8, 2009

Healthcare Reform: It Starts With My M&M Jar

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I have trouble controlling my M&M addiction, especially when I'm working. Computer eats my story? Time for an M&M. Editor loves my story? Time for two M&Ms.

It's tough to stay healthy at work. I mean, the stress is what drove me to my M&M problem in the first place. I've even contemplated looking into a 12-step M&M recovery program, but then I have to have a red M&M just to think about it (the red ones actually boost brain power...the green ones are for when I need to power down and just think about life).

That's why I was so interested in a story about how work can help you get healthy. Seriously? With the bagels and cream cheese for the Monday morning meeting, the double chocolate cake for a co-worker's birthday and the endless hours sitting in a cushy chair staring at a computer screen? Healthy at work? I grabbed a new bag of M&Ms and prepared to make some calls.

I talked to Roy and Diane Morrison, some really nice folks who shared their story about how Vought Aircraft Industries' wellness program has made such a difference in their lives. Roy admitted that his expanding waistline had made it a bit difficult to perform some of his carpentry duties for the company, and Diane, his wife, said she always wanted to get healthier, but Roy wasn't too interested.

But then Vought launched a major wellness initiative a couple of years ago, focusing not just on improving the health of its aging workforce, but also on improving the health of the employee's family. Company officials were upfront about the fact they're looking to save money -- the National Coalition of Health Care says the annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700 last year -- but they also want their company to stand out as a great place to work.

For the Morrisons, jumping on the wellness bandwagon at work meant more than improving Diane's diabetes or helping the couple lose weight and eat better. They have an adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

“The doctors said that we would have to institutionalize her,” Roy explained.“We told them that we would give her the care that she needed.”

Still, with his wife Diana’s diabetes and bad back, and Roy ready to celebrate his 59th birthday this summer, the couple knew changes had to be made if they wanted to fulfill their wishes for their daughter, who often must be lifted.

“We have to be in good shape for her,” says Diana, 54, who has lost 57 pounds in the last year and improved her blood sugar levels. She says she often uses Vought’s online wellness education and support, and Vought wellness coordinators even call her periodically to check in.

Vought's program is extensive. Among its offerings: health risk screenings, financial incentives for improved health, on-site exercise equipment, healthier food choices at work and a host of support and education for employees and their families. CEO Elmer Doty has lost 50 pounds and the top brass has been educated about how they can use their leadership to improve the lives and health of the company's 6,500 employees in seven locations across the U.S.

Still, it's not always easy. Says Diana: “The whole process has really been more mental. Every day is a choice. Some days are harder than others, and sometimes you fall. I have fallen, but you have to get back up."

As President Obama and members of Congress begin pounding out healthcare reform, I can't help but think about people like the Morrisons and companies like Vought. Better health and better healthcare is something I believe we all want, and just like the Morrisons, I have people I care about. I want to be around to help when needed.

Work is very stressful for many of us right now. But just like Diana Morrison said, you have to realize that every day is a choice. Today, I choose to put down my M&Ms. And I'm not going to think about that leftover cheesecake in the fridge....

Do you have any tips to share about staying healthier at work?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so true about it being a mental thing. I've tried to lose weight over the years, doing every diet out there. It wasn't until I had a bad health scare that I decided it was time to make a real lifestyle change. Some days I do better thatn others, but the key is not looking back but forward.