Corporate benefit programs aid workers, employer - East Valley Tribune: News

Corporate benefit programs aid workers, employer

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Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2008 8:09 pm | Updated: 9:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Candace McHatton said finding out she was pre-diabetic two years ago was a complete surprise. But the 45-year-old support manager at JDA Software in north Scottsdale didn't learn her blood sugar was high from her physician.

She received her results from independent health consultants at a voluntary health screening she took on-site at her workplace, paid for by her employer.

"I looked at it as a wake-up call," said McHatton, recalling the inspiration behind her recent weight loss.

McHatton is among a growing number of employees being offered heath promotion programs by their employers as a "perk" to get fit.

"One of our company's missions is to promote a healthy lifestyle. It's a win-win situation," said Margie Jones, compensation and benefits manager at JDA Software, a software development, services and consulting company headquartered in Scottsdale - a company that's been treating its nationwide staff (which includes a little more than 400 workers in Scottsdale) to health assessments and screenings by Phoenix-based health management consultants Kronos Optimal Health Co. for the past two years.

Through voluntary health screenings and wellness programs, Jones said employees can aim to improve their health, while at the same time, help potentially save their employers some cash.

While it's hard to quantify just how much a company may save by having healthier workers, Jones said if an employee is able to catch a medical condition early - such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol - it may cut down their number of trips to the doctor and perhaps reduce other medical expenses.

And with the number of overweight Americans on the rise, there could be many ailments brewing that employees may be unaware of if they don't take the time to get an annual physical.

According to a recently released Kronos Optimal Health survey, which screened more than 9,900 workers nationwide (15 percent of which are from Arizona), a large percentage of workers who had their body mass index tested were considered either overweight or obese.

The study, conducted in 2007, found 77 percent of men and 65 percent of women age 40 and older were either overweight or obese. For employees younger than 40, the study found nearly 68 percent of men and 52 percent of women in that age range were either overweight or obese. Subsequently, the participants' cholesterol screenings found nearly 40 percent of employees had LDL - the bad cholesterol - in the borderline to high range.

"People need to know their numbers," said Dr. Susan Kaib, medical director at Kronos Optimal Health in Phoenix. She said her company offers on-site workplace screenings, health programs (both on-site and at their Phoenix facility) to help people know and understand the basics: blood sugar levels, cholesterol numbers, blood pressure and body mass index.

Kaib said there were times her staff found employees with blood pressure levels so high, they were at risk of having a stroke.

As part of its healthy lifestyle approach, Jones said in addition to the yearly health assessments JDA Software offers its employees each April, the company also offers its workers stress management classes, monthly Kronos health lectures, one-on-one personal coaching and gift cards to the winners of "pedometer challenges."

McHatton said she looked at the free health and wellness programs her company was offering as an opportunity to improve her health. She said she's already taken advantage of two Kronos-run weight management programs JDA Software offered free during their lunch hour. McHatton said within the first four months of the program, she shed 40 pounds. She said she's also no longer considered pre-diabetic.

Her co-worker Terish Kuka, 32, said she has also benefitted from the health programs.

"I've been on lots of diets and would lose the weight and gain it back," said Kuka, an accountant.

She said since beginning the Kronos weight management program at work, she lost 20 pounds and lowered her cholesterol by nearly 60 points.

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