The University of Rochester has been honored by the American Heart Association as a Platinum-Level Start! Fit-Friendly Company for its successful efforts to create a culture of corporate wellness. The University also has been chosen among a select group of companies as an AHA 2011 Worksite Innovation Award winner, a tribute reserved for organizations that lead in the development and implementation of innovative and effective programs to motivate employees toward a healthier lifestyle.
The AHA honors employers who go above and beyond to promote health among their employees, offering employees physical activity options; increasing healthy eating options; implementing at least nine criteria outlined by the American Heart Association in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and culture; and demonstrating measurable outcomes related to workplace wellness.
“This recognition by the American Heart Association reflects our goal to make the University as healthy an environment as it can be,” said University President Joel Seligman. “It is truly in line with our motto—Ever Better—and we are proud to do whatever we can to give our employees the tools that make healthy living attainable.”
Charles Murphy, associate vice president for human resources, added, “We are pleased so many of our employees are taking advantage of the UR’s health and wellness services, some of which have been in place for years and others that have been added recently to promote the health of our workforce. Our goal is to help people get active, eat better and ultimately feel as good as they can, all in an effort to improve the quality of their lives.”
Although the University celebrates this AHA recognition and how far we have come, Murphy said, new programs and offerings for staff are being developed to promote good health.
The University of Rochester continued this year to further improve upon its wellness offerings, prompting a rise in the number of employees who are taking advantage of programs and services and taking action to become healthier. Some examples:
- The University of Rochester increased financial incentives available to employees and their spouses for completion of a biometric screening and health risk assessment.
- The University implemented new programs to promote active transportation (the use of walking/bicycling as one’s main form of transportation) among employees. More bike racks have been added throughout the campus. A weather-protected bike cage was installed in the Medical Center so that employees who cycle to work have a safe place to store their bicycles. In addition, the onsite fitness and wellness center now offers bicyclists the ability to purchase locker access and shower use for a small monthly fee.
- The University’s employee wellness program, in collaboration with other departments, began offering an active transportation education series, which includes lectures on topics such as how to travel safely during the winter, incentives available to employees who commute, and how to tune bicycles for the spring/summer months. During National Bike to Work Week, the University held an event that was well attended. The University is working closely with community partners to help move forward the City of Rochester’s plan to make Rochester a more cycle-friendly city.
- The national “Walk with a Doc” program was recently launched for employees and their spouses. It encourages physical activity and reversing the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. Various physicians, specialists and other health care professionals from the University of Rochester community take turns walking with employees for 30 minutes on Saturday mornings, providing health education, and answering questions.
American employers face increasing health care expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion a year, according to the AHA. Many American adults spend most of their waking hours at sedentary jobs. Their lack of regular physical activity raises their risk for a host of medical problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Employers face $12.7 billion in annual medical expenses due to obesity alone. The Start! Fit-Friendly initiative intends to change corporate cultures by motivating employees to start walking, which has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Additional efforts, such as those the University of Rochester is employing, also are having an impact on its employees’ health.