Helen Eddy
Helen Eddy

Considering that the average American spends more than one-third of each weekday engaged in work-related activities, the office has become an important place to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Iowa Health System and Meredith Corp. are two pioneering Iowa businesses improving the health of their organization both on the waistline and on the bottom line. Tobacco cessation, wellness screenings, disease management and weight loss challenges have all yielded staggering results.

At Meredith, employees enrolled in the company’s health plan and their spouses can voluntarily participate in a confidential wellness screening. The screenings identify areas of strength and opportunities for insured employees to develop a plan to address any problem areas. Not only do employees see a benefit in their health and in their pocketbook due to reduced premiums, but Meredith reports saving an average of $2,865 per person on annual medical claims for employees who are screened.

In support of helping employees live a healthy life, Meredith participates in wellness challenges throughout the year to encourage friendly competition among employees. Additionally, the corporate office has free exercise facilities and group fitness classes available.

Meredith also covers tobacco cessation within their health plan. This health benefit includes counseling and cessation aids that have allowed the company to reduce employee smoking rates from 11.4 percent in 2006 to 3.4 percent. Since 2010, 75 Meredith employees have quit tobacco, saving $195,000 annually within their company health plan.

Ultimately, Meredith’s self-funded health plan has staved off the double-digit health cost increases many other businesses and the individual market have recently experienced. In fact, costs for Meredith have only increased an average of 2 to 3 percent annually since the program’s inception.

Iowa Health System (IHS) places a similar importance on health and wellness, but focuses on disease management. Iowa Health System developed a plan to reduce the long-term costs of diabetes by helping its employees manage the disease and prevent more expensive conditions that occur as it progresses. Employees who are diabetic can enroll in a voluntary program that breaks down the barriers to care for employees. This effort eliminates the co-pay for any visit to a primary care physician.

Considering that diabetic testing equipment can cost up to $8 per day, IHS covers the cost of diabetic test strips and lancets. Finally, members can attend diabetes education classes at IHS facilities for no charge and as often as they need.

The success of the diabetes program has led IHS to expand the program to at-risk individuals for coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure. Along with diabetes, these conditions are among the leading cost drivers in our health-care system.

Though the cost savings are impressive, both Meredith and IHS implemented their programs to help their employees and families live longer, happier, healthier lives. These two programs are a clear demonstration of the investment Iowa employers have made in their workforces.

Helen Eddy is the executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative and is the assistant vice president of health and wellness at Hy-Vee Inc.