How screenings, a nutritionist and big helping of support are shrinking waistlines and changing a government agency for the better. With New Year’s around the corner, employees at the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s office are celebrating their successes in 2013 and nudging the bar a little higher for 2014. Thanks to the “Journey to Good Health” program implemented by Tax Collector Anne Gannon in 2011, employees better understand their risks of chronic disease and are discovering tools to make significant lifestyle changes. “Health care is a major expense for any organization and we’re doing what we can to lower our agency’s risk of major claims and provide our employees with excellent health care,” says Gannon. The Journey to Good Health The elective program, first initiated in 2011, has seen increased participation year after year and improved employee results. In this past year, 80 percent of eligible employees participated in the screenings. Screenings include clinical laboratory values, biometric measures and a risk factor questionnaire. Screening results track risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases and type two diabetes. These diseases can be reversed and by doing so, risk factors for hypertension and certain cancers can also be significantly reduced. Following screening a health report card is sent to participants with lab results and risk level indicators and ideal levels to aim for. Of the 224 screened in 2013, 169 participants were invited to attend classes to learn to manage their risks in one or more of the three areas of focus: cholesterol, diabetes and weight. The classes feature a registered dietician to educate employees on diet choices and new ways to prepare old favorites. At risk participants can also receive one-on-one counseling with the dietician to address specific concerns and eating habits. All participating employees are welcome to attend the classes and in 2013 new elective classes were added to reach new levels of wellness beyond diet and exercise. The classes included, Life after 40, A Roadmap for Fitness, A Healthy Cooking Class, Stress Management and more. In 2013, participating employees also received a discount on healthcare premiums. When you look at Anne Gannon, a marathon runner and yoga lover fueled by a plant based diet, it’s pretty clear she knows the value of a healthy lifestyle. She wants her employees to reap the same benefits of good diet choices and frequent exercise, as well as lower their risk of a major health event. “The Journey to Good Health program has become a part of our agency culture and we’re seeing more and more employees embrace a healthier lifestyle – and they’re doing it together. A doctor may tell you that you need to lower your cholesterol, but the program not only shows them their risk, it shows them their ideal level and gives them the tools to get there,” says Gannon. The results from the past year alone have been significant:
- 53 participants of the 8 week program lost a total of 455 lbs.
- 69% of the High Risk Total Cholesterol Group decreased their risk with an average reduction in total cholesterol of 11%.
- 18 lost an average of 19 lbs.
- 67% of the High Risk Diabetes Group lost an average of 8.75 lbs.
- 15 identified as “pre-diabetic” were removed from the “pre-diabetic” classification at re-screen.
- 9 with elevated Triglycerides were identified as “within normal limits” at re- screen.
- Only 1.9% had “slightly” elevated blood pressure (either systolic or diastolic) compared to a national average of 31%
The Journey to Good Health not only helps employees take back their lives, but it underlines Anne Gannon’s commitment to Palm Beach County. The Program is intended to minimize her agency’s risk of major healthcare claims, “it’s an investment we’re making in our employees and its return results in not only better health but also a reduction in preventable major health incidents in our future.” Since the program’s inception the agency has seen a significant reduction in prescription medication claims and while the long-term healthcare savings is not known, they’re confident that major incidents from complications with preventable diseases has been reduced, now and in the future. To change the agency’s risk factors, the Tax Collector’s office had to reach beyond traditional wellness programs to offer employees attainable goals, measurable results and most of all support. What can’t be seen in the numbers are the lives that have been changed as a result of the program. The true results are in the smiles of healthier, happier employees, who are proud of their accomplishments and are now advocates of a healthy lifestyle, impacting their family and friends.