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State of Health

Employers See Benefit In Providing Wellness Programs

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

More than 70 percent of U.S. companies now offer a wellness program to its employees. It's an effort to reduce healthcare costs but what companies in Oklahoma have found healthy employees are more productive employees.

"I just wanted to get back in shape, get back active," said Janet Carpenter.

Two years ago, she carpenter never imagined she'd be inside a gym and working out.

"Sometimes at the end of the day, that is the last thing that I'm thinking about doing is working out," she admits.

The busy mother of four works full time at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"I'm behind a telephone all day, pretty much eight hours of the day," she said.

However, when she got transferred to the main office in Tulsa, she saw an opportunity to get her health back on track through Motiva, the company's wellness program.

"We as an insurer have to be in the wellness business, we have to practice what we preach right," said Dr. Joseph Cunningham of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The program includes ways to stay active from an on-site fitness center where employees can exercise around their work schedules to simple things like a standing desk.

"If we expect somebody to live a healthier lifestyle we can't expect them to live one way at home and a different way at work so you lead by the example you set," he said.

In the break room, there's a market pantry that offers employees healthier snacks and lunches.

"Those are what really help attract and retain a really high quality work force," said Tana Cashion, Senior VP of Human Resources for Devon Energy.

Devon Energy also gives employees a nutritious option with a discount to Nebu, an onsite restaurant with five food stations full of fresh organic food. The company also offers "The Well" an on-site fitness center that includes group classes and access to personal trainers.

"We have programming that goes in the morning, lot of programming at lunch and then classes available again in the evening," Cashion said.

Devon partnered with OU Physicians to bring employees and their families a primary care medical clinic also located inside the building.

"What we find is that people are able to go there primarily for a very personal relationship with a physician and it is very preventative in nature," she said.

Companies like Devon and Blue Cross Blue Shield are among more than two thirds of US employers that offer a wellness program to its employees,  to not only improve the health of their employees but also the company's bottom line.

"Health insurance as we all know, it's very expensive and for a company there's great financial implications and so we want to do everything we can to help manage those costs and a part of that is having very healthy employees," said Cashion.

Carpenter is already seeing the benefit, losing 20 pounds so far.

"It's very convenient because I have time now during my lunches and during my breaks to work out," she said.

The program in turn gives her extra time with her family.

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