An in-house wellness program can pay many dividends, both for the company and its employees, according to an executive for one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers. Sara Glore, Celadon’s vice president for human resources, spoke to trucking executives Wednesday, June 11, at the CCJ Spring Symposium about her company’s experiences with its “Highway 2 Health” wellness program, which was initiated to lower healthcare costs by bringing those services in-house.
Celadon has 3,500 employees, including 2,750 fleet members and 750 administrative workers. The company has four terminals and two logistics warehouses scattered across the nation, and only sees drivers during orientation. Glore said that considering the company’s size and scope, rolling out the wellness program proved daunting. “The first year, we had a clean slate,” Glore said. “We didn’t even know what we wanted to do yet.”
in January 2006, Glore organized what she called the Wellness Council, which included senior Celadon executives, a representative of the company’s benefits vendor, and the chief executive officer of the local Community Hospitals. The Wellness Council began by formulating an official mission statement: “To research, identify and recommend inventive and progressive strategies to improve the mental and physical well-being of Celadon employees and their families and control rising health costs.”
Under the guidance of the Wellness Council, Celadon hired additional staff to carry out the various elements of the “Highway 2 Health” program. The company already had a nurse practitioner and a medial assistant, and the carrier hired a full-time nurse and a wellness coordinator. The team started by conducting health-risk assessments of its employees.
These assessments revealed things that surprised and startled Glore and others: 43 percent of the company’s employees had high blood pressure, 28 percent were overweight, 41 percent were obese, 16 percent were morbidly obese, 97 percent didn’t eat enough fruits and/or vegetables daily, 46 percent didn’t exercise at all, and four people recently had thought about ending their life. Also, 47 percent lacked a provider they regularly visited, 62 percent said they didn’t seek health care because they were working, and 54 percent did not seek health care because they had to make a delivery.
The “Highway 2 Health” program offered a number of wellness initiatives, including health fairs, personal wellness coaching, diabetes counseling, employee education “brown bag lunch” sessions and even ensuring that the headquarters cafeteria carried healthy alternatives.
In January 2007, Celadon offered Weight Watchers to its administrative group. Fifty-three of the 350 employees signed up – from technicians to vice presidents. And the mix of men and women was about even, which surprised Glore. The deal was if the employee lost 5 percent of his body weight, he would get his $140 fee refunded. But even those who made an effort had some incentive. If a worker attended at least 10 of the 12 sessions, he would receive half the registration fee back even if he didn’t lose enough weight. In 12 weeks, Celadon staff lost 961 pounds. The Weight Watchers program continued, and the total weight lost has reached about 1,800 pounds.
Glore has found that incentives built around challenges and specific activities have been effective in encouraging healthy behaviors. For example, the “50 points for 50 bucks” initiative lets employees earn points – and ultimately, cash – for things like getting physicals, mammograms, eye exams and so on.
And over the most recent holiday season, the company sponsored a program called “Maintain No Gain” in which employees weighed in before Thanksgiving and then periodically through Jan. 4. During that period, the goal was to gain no more than 2 pounds, with prizes awarded to those who succeeded. Of the 59 employees who participated, 38 maintained their weight (64 percent) and most of the others missed it by only a pound or two. “We were very pleased with the results,” Glore said.
One of the more creative and engaging wellness initiatives was the “Walk to Laredo” that Celadon staged during the spring of 2007. Laredo, Texas, is Celadon’s southernmost terminal. The idea was that each participant would, in about three months, walk the equivalent of the distance between Indianapolis and Laredo. In all, 154 employees signed up individually or in teams of four and earned points for covering a certain number of miles. In addition, prizes were awarded at certain benchmarks – the distances from Indianapolis to terminals in Paducah, Ky., and Little Rock, Ark., for example. The “walk” aspect was flexible; some biked and others ran. The “track” was the Celadon headquarters building; four times around it is a mile. More than 120 employees participated.
More recent initiatives include yoga and smoking cessasion classes, as well as “CelaFit,” an eight-week program designed to promote well-being through drinking water, not smoking, getting more sleep, exercising and eating vegetables. In addition, Celadon is ramping up awareness of the program through posters at headquarters, visits to terminals and an Intranet site.
Other recent additions to the program include insurance premium discounts, a disease management program, a medical clinic, an 800-number nurse line, and an improved sleep apnea program. The next phase is set to include age-appropriate medical screenings, 24-hour medical coordination services, a pharmacy formulary, onsite lab services, Department of Transportation drug screening and a fitness/rehabilitation center.
Now that the program is in its second year, Celadon has added a part-time physician 1/2-day a week, a part-time nurse practitioner and two full-time medical assistants. The company purchased medical information management systems with electronic medical records that interface with HR systems; the system provides improved case management and recordkeeping, meaningful reports and a safety/risk management module, Glore said. Companies can choose an Internet-based system or a more customized “direct-install,” which Glore admitted has proven difficult. “It’s taken about four months to get the bugs worked out,” she said.
The hassles may be worth the effort, Glore said: Since the program’s inception, Celadon’s average monthly costs for medical claims have dropped 15 to 20 percent.