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Live Healthy, Win a Car

Great American Insurance Group is a believer about using incentives to promote employee health. This year, the Cincinnati-based company's parent, American Financial Group, held a AFGreat Health Challenge in which it promised to give away a car and other prizes if at least 70 percent of employees participated in health screenings and if the company's overall health scores improved compared to the previous year.

The incentive program was a success. More than 75 percent of the company's 5,500 employees participated in some aspect of the six-month program. About half of the employees purchased pedometers that allowed them to upload their steps to a company Web site, track their progress and compete against each other in walking clubs.

On December 9, the company held a ceremony in which it awarded a 2009 Saturn Sky as a grand prize to a San Diego employee. It also gave away $10,000 and $5,000 shopping sprees, and a $2,500 gas card. Other finalists received Wii game systems.

Scott Beeken, AFG's vice president for benefits strategy and planning, made the case for health promotion incentives both for health and productivity reasons and as a good financial move. "If a single at-risk employee can avoid a triple by-pass procedure, we'll save as much as $75,000 and enable that person to remain a happy and healthy member of the Great American family for years to come. A $30,000 car seems like a pretty small price to pay for a payoff like that."

During the program, health risk assessments showed more employees with good scores and fewer with poor scores compared to 2008. Employees who participated in the weight loss program lost an average of 18 pounds. Employees who participated in the walking program averaged more than 8,200 steps per day, about 2 miles more than the typical office worker walks per day. Screenings identified two employees with early stage cancers.

AFG's health care costs this year have been holding steady. In fact, the company declared a health premium holiday for employees on several of the company's health plans because of lower than expected costs.

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