BJC loses 2,200 pounds; Benefit outsourcing grows

Since April, employees of BJC HealthCare have lost 2,200 pounds, thanks to the health system’s Help for Your Health employee health-literacy initiative. The Business Journal reported on the program in a story on corporate fitness incentives in last year’s employee benefits section.

And, in conjunction with Washington University, BJC has applied for a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of employer-sponsored health initiatives at four of BJC’s major hospitals.

Help for Your Health has continued to grow, with offerings added during 2004, said Kathleen Killion, executive director of the initiative. The program had a budget of $950,000 in 2004.

A new feature introduced this year is a medical premium discount of $10 a month for accepting a health pledge and completing an online health-risk assessment. The discount will be raised to $15 per month in 2005.

More than 9,000 BJC employees have participated in health screenings at 23 health fairs conducted at the health system’s 12 member hospitals and other locations throughout the organization, Killion said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with a 40 percent participation rate.”

Through another new component of the Help for Your Health program, BJC dispensed 2,600 starter bottles of low-dose aspirin to qualifying employees. “For certain people, taking low-dose aspirin every day can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke,” Killion said. “Eighty-five percent of the participants in this program said they will speak to their doctors about their need for the aspirin therapy. That’s one of our goals — to stimulate conversation between our employees and their doctors.”

The health initiative has also reached the lunch line at BJC facilities. Atlanta-based Morrison Management Specialists, BJC’s food service supplier, has expanded the healthy food choices it offers and provides monthly Lunch and Learn sessions on a variety of nutrition topics. Morrison also is implementing nutrition labeling in cafeterias and introducing some Weight Watchers items.

Through a corporate sponsorship with the YMCA, BJC employees get a discount on membership fees and classes. About 200 employees have joined the YMCA since September, Killion said.

Plans for the health literacy initiative next year include expansion of BJC’s online “virtual health coach” to include programs for nutrition and fitness, and a partnership with a local fast-food chain to promote healthier food choices on the go. Programs for employees’ children, as well as on such issues as osteoporosis, hormone replacement therapy and mental health also will be offered.

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Another story in last year’s employee benefits section reported on the recent growth of the human resources outsourcing industry, which includes such areas as hiring, benefits, management, training and development, and performance management. The industry has grown as more and more companies turn to outsourcing as a cost-cutting measure and a way to focus their attention on their core competencies.

The trend continued at a strong pace in 2004 for local companies that provide human resources outsourcing services. “We’ve seen 50 percent growth over the past year,” said Sherry Donahue, director of human resource consulting and benefits compliance for MRCT Benefits Plus. “We’re continuing to see growth in businesses that have less than 200 people. In that area, most of the companies don’t have a dedicated HR person, so they’re outsourcing their benefits, compensation analysis and structure, policies, writing manuals, and employee relations.”

Outsourcing provides smaller companies with expert service in all these areas for a reasonable fee, Donahue said. “As companies are streamlining and trying to find the most efficient way to operate, instead of adding a whole body, they can call me and have someone with 25 years of experience.”

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