AOHC: Corporate Health Award Winners Reach Beyond the Workplace

Corporate health programs now must address employees' health on and off the job in order to win the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's (ACOEM) most prestigious award, a recent change reflecting new trends in the field.

"To limit occupational health to injuries and illnesses that are caused by the workplace is now a somewhat antiquated view," said William Wanago, corporate medical director for Comprehensive Health Services Inc., in an interview at the American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC), being held in Washington May 1-5.

A common feature of presentations offered by this year's two winners, DaimlerChrysler and Quad/Graphics, was attention to promoting the health of employees through onsite clinics, exercise, diet, smoking cessation and other programs. (DaimlerChrysler was named one of America's Safest Companies in 2003.)

Wanago said ACOEM's board of directors approved the new criteria for the organization's Corporate Health Achievement Award within the past year because of recent developments in the field of occupational health.

According to Wanago, the concept of occupational health now extends beyond work-related injuries and illnesses to include any medical condition, risk factor or lifestyle impairment that may affect an employee's ability to be at work, be productive and stay well.

"We added health and productivity, medical information systems and data management," Wanago explained. "We put a heavier score on leadership and management, recognizing that this new approach requires major change within the organization."

Amy Helwig, associate corporate medical director for QuadMed, a wholly owned subsidiary of Quad/Graphics, explained that the elements of her company's comprehensive program include:

  • Onsite primary care and selected specialty care;
  • Fitness and exercises facilities at all sites;
  • Focus on wellness and preventive medicine;
  • Easy access to health care data; and
  • Integration of workers' compensation into primary care services.

Helwig said that even after allowing for all the expenses of the company's ambitious onsite health and wellness programs, Quad/Graphics health care costs are consistently 17 to 19 percent below the benchmark average, when adjusted for demographic and benefit design.

In concluding, Helwig offered these tips for occupational health managers. "Offer rewards for maintaining health -- don't wait for disease and health costs to happen," she said. Quad/Graphics has just instituted a $250 cash award plan for employees with healthy lifestyles. "Employers need to play a role in the health behavior change of their employees."

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