Chamber staff sheds pounds, gains dollars with wellness program

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, Memorial Health System and Kaiser Permanente are each contributing $3,579 to the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce in payment for its wellness program victories.

All 20 chamber employees completed a three-month program in which they were screened for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, body mass index and smoking. They were offered on-site personalized health coaching.

At the end of the screening program, employees lost a total of 54 pounds and one participant quit smoking. They logged 30,392 minutes of exercise, marking the first time some of them had participated in a fitness program.

The idea for the program came from chamber CEO Dave Csintyan, who grew concerned about the rising cost of health care for his staff.

CEOs from the three health care organizations agreed to start an incentive-based wellness program for the chamber staff.

“A healthy workforce informs your balance sheet with increased productivity and decreased absenteeism,” said Csintyan. “What started as a reactive comment to increasing health premiums is quickly evolving into a cultural change.”

The program is similar to a longer-term program set up between Colorado Springs’ Old North End Neighborhood and Penrose-St. Francis. In this case, the group received money for every minute exercised, every pound lost.

Wellness is one of Margaret Sabin’s passions, and she believes it’s easily in reach for everyone. Sabin is CEO of Penrose-St. Francis.

“It’s about setting reachable goals,” she says. “Don’t decide to go out and run five miles the first time – that’s not going to work, and you’re going to get mad at yourself for failing. Go for a walk, first. Then jog. Every step makes a difference.”

Sabin believes that wellness-related activities are the main way to control health care spending. Her goal is to create workplace programs like the chamber’s in order to not only cut health-care premiums, but to build partnerships with local hospitals that will lower emergency room visits.