Home » OPINION » Columns » ALAN TURNER — Adding up the benefits of healthy workplaces

ALAN TURNER — Adding up the benefits of healthy workplaces


There are many reasons why employers should adopt and support workplace wellness programs for their employees, but for our purposes, let’s consider just two of these.

First, workplace wellness programs make major contributions to the health and happiness of employees and their families, and in many cases, have actually saved lives. More on this later in this article.

Second, workplace wellness programs also deliver major financial benefits for those companies which are committed to them. It’s a proven fact that companies with good programs in place generally have far less lost work days due to illness, which obviously increases productivity and efficiency for the company. Further, the insurance and medical costs for the company are generally far less than with companies which do not have good wellness programs in place. It’s a simple fact that helping employees to adopt healthier lifestyles and improve their health options means they will spend less time in hospitals and clinics.

Thus, it seems clear that workplace wellness programs are a win-win for all involved.

On Thursday, July 26, the Mississippi Business Journal, in concert with the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi Department of Health, will host the annual Mississippi Healthiest Workplaces event, recognizing Mississippi companies which have great wellness programs in place. The honorees have been carefully evaluated for their programs, and awards are presented in a number of categories based on the size of the company and the effectiveness of its wellness programs.

We asked our partners and some of the winning companies for their thoughts on the event, and the importance of workplace wellness for them. Here are some of the comments we received:


Murray Harber, Executive Director of the Mississippi Business Group on Health:

“We’re proud to be a partner in the Healthiest Workplaces Awards and have the opportunity to recognize Mississippi employers who show excellence in providing a healthy workplace. Mississippi has many great success stories from companies offering safe and healthy environments and wellness programs that promote employee health and well-being. This effort is making a difference for these companies and their employees and their families.”


Victor Sutton, Office of Preventive Health, Mississippi State Department of Health:

“Research shows that investing in workplace wellness programs positively impacts worker health — and the bottom line.”


Deidra Bell, St. Dominic’s:

“St. Dominic’s mission includes serving our community with compassionate care. This mission begins with our employees and their families. The Mississippi Healthiest Workplaces awards program recognizes the dedication of our employees to a culture of health and wellness that provides an Exceptional Experience Everytime to our co-workers as well as those we serve.”


Edmond Hughes, Vice President, Huntington Ingalls Industries:

“We are honored to be named one of the healthiest workplaces in Mississippi. From our employee fitness center, family health center, which now includes vision services, to the annual 5K on the Causeway, we want to ensure that our employees are investing in themselves with a goal of having a healthy body, mind, and wallet.”


Billy Sims, Senior Vice Presicent, Southern Farm Bureau:

“I think it is important for employers to be recognized, to validate their commitment to individual health improvement and aid in creating a culture of wellness, both within their workforce and for a benchmark for others trying to improve both the cost and wellness of their workforce.”


Our hat is off to the award winners at this year’s event, because they have all made a true and positive difference in the lives of their employees and their families.

By way of example, we recently received some information from our friends at the Center for Disease Control, which was published during the recent National Hospital Week in May, an event which celebrates hospitals, health systems, and the women and men who support the health and well-being of their communities. It also gives hospitals an opportunity to focus on employees’ health through their own workplace wellness programs. We appreciate these positive stories which illustrate just how important wellness programs are, and our thanks to the CDC for sharing the information, reprinted here by permission.


He was a ticking time bomb

Meet Fitz, a 51-year-old hospital employee in Jackson, Mississippi, who didn’t realize he was a ticking time bomb until he went for a free annual health screening as part of his hospital’s Healthy Lives workplace wellness program.

The veteran health professional knew how to remain calm under stress. For 17 years, he has moved patients between their rooms and surgery at St. Dominic’s Hospital. Although he was cool as a cucumber, Fitz was having his own health emergency—and didn’t even know it.

“I went to a Healthy Lives screening in 2016 because I wanted to take advantage of our workplace wellness program,” says Fitz. “I was feeling fine. I signed in and went to get my height, weight, and blood pressure checked. The nurse encouraged me to go straight to the emergency room because my blood pressure was very elevated.

“I reluctantly went to the ER. From there I was admitted to the hospital and sent to the intensive care unit for three days to correct my blood pressure and sugar levels. I had no idea I was diabetic.”

The scare persuaded Fitz to get serious about his health. Thanks to the Healthy Lives program, he began to meet regularly with a registered dietitian at no charge. He also began to learn more about nutrition and ways he could make healthy changes to his diet. Soon he started swimming and walking at the hospital gym. Now Fitz has lost 25 pounds, brought his blood pressure and sugar levels under control, and been able to cut down on his medicine intake.

“I’ve been blessed because if it hadn’t been for St. Dominic’s program, I could have died,” he says.

Melissa Hinson, registered nurse and director of the Healthy Lives workplace wellness program, says, “With ever-changing employee needs, we work every year to bring new components into our program to engage our members.” Some of the recent additions to the program include healthier food and drink options in vending machines. Hinson also worked with the hospital’s dietary department to add healthier foods to the menu in the St. Dominic’s deli and cafeteria.

Her heart attack was a wake-up call

Like Fitz, a licensed practical nurse named Debra had a wake-up call that inspired her to make big changes in her habits. She works with very ill patients at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Mississippi, and it can be stressful at times. To make matters worse, Debra was overweight, smoked, and had diabetes. At age 44, she suffered a heart attack, and doctors put stents in her arteries to improve blood flow to her heart.

“I decided to do something about it,” Debra says of her health problems. She took a class her employer offered on stress management. She lost 30 pounds after signing up for a weight-loss challenge and making a habit of treadmill walking at work. She entered a program at Magnolia Regional that helped her to stop smoking cigarettes. The Disease Management Program, sponsored by the hospital’s main Wellness Program, pays for her blood pressure and diabetes medicines. She is required to track her readings on monthly log sheets, attend wellness classes, and speak with her employee wellness nurse/coach regularly.

“I really appreciate the hospital putting the time and resources into this wellness program to help us get better,” she says. “We promote health and wellness. We should reflect that!”

Elizabeth Woodruff, registered nurse and employee wellness nurse/coach for Magnolia Regional’s Wellness Programs, calls Debra a superstar. “She has decreased her medications, lost weight, quit smoking, and is eating healthier and exercising.”

Most hospitals offer wellness programs

When it comes to promoting workplace health and wellness, St. Dominic’s Hospital and Magnolia Regional Health Center have plenty of company. In 2017, CDC conducted the Workplace Health in America Survey, the first nationally representative survey of employers, including hospitals, regarding their workplace health programs, policies, and practices since 2004. National estimates1 from the survey showed that:

83 percent of hospitals in the United States provide workplace wellness programs, compared to 46 percent of all employers.

63 percent of the hospitals offer health screenings, also known as biometrics, compared to 27 percent of all employers.

31 percent of the hospitals provide health coaches, compared to 5 percent of all employers.

56 percent of the hospitals have stress-management programs, compared to 20% of all employers.

55 percent of the hospitals offer counseling to help employees stop smoking, compared to 16 percent of all employers.

This certainly stands as proof positive of how workplaces wellness programs are making a difference in the lives of Mississippians.

Following the Mississippi Healthiest Workplace awards event, we’ll be publishing information on the winners and their programs. They stand as great examples of how Mississippi companies can make a positive difference to so many people, and their example should serve as motivation for many companies who do not currently have a workplace wellness program in place.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.


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