Local businesses promote heart health

2013-02-02T00:00:00Z Local businesses promote heart healthChristine Bryant Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Although New Year’s usually means making a resolution to get fit, several companies in the region have already made it a priority to keep their employees healthy.

Just ask Tami Janda, who as corporate wellness coordinator at Centier Bank, got employees to walk to Miami and Los Angeles last year.

“We held a couple challenges where teams of five competed to see who could walk the same number of miles it would take to get from here to Miami and Los Angeles,” she said.

The teams were awarded prizes once they conquered 1,182 miles to Miami and the more than 2,000 miles to Los Angeles.

Though not every wellness initiative is this challenging, several companies offer programs for their employees on every level.

Nick Meyer, director of external communications at NIPSCO, says the natural gas company has fitness centers located across all its major central offices, including the NiSource/NIPSCO headquarters in Merrillville.

“We also conduct annual weight loss competition programs, and offer blood screenings at various locations in partnership with the Franciscan clinic, paid through employees’ preventive benefits,” he said.

NIPSCO also offers preventive screenings for colonoscopies and mammograms, regardless of a participant’s diagnosis.

“We also host annual wellness fairs in Merrillville each year for employees,” Meyer said.

Like NIPSCO, Franciscan Alliance has fitness centers in four out of its five hospitals in the region that are open to all employees. Many are either free of charge or available for a very low cost, said Carlos Celis, Franciscan Alliance health coach.

“We also offer some classes onsite such as yoga, Zumba and group personal training classes,” he said.

Employees who stay in good health see a reward in their paychecks. They receive wellness credits with the company’s insurance plan if they fare well during a physical.

“Employees are eligible to get credit, based on going to a physician annually and getting a physical,” Celis said.

If they do well, such as their cholesterol levels are in check, they get a credit – which means the cost of their insurance and the amount deducted on their paychecks for insurance decreases.

“Hopefully it’s a motivation so when you go next year, you try to improve on your numbers you had this year,” he said.

At Centier Bank, the company provides an onsite fitness workout center at its headquarters that is free for all employees.

“After work, we hold Zumba classes twice a week, and we have a boot camp class that we hold twice a week as well,” Janda said.

In addition to the Los Angeles and Miami challenges, the pedometer program also included an individual challenge to take 7,000 steps daily.

“There were no barriers, such as not being able to make it to the classes,” she said. “It’s for anyone and promoted just being active.”

Employees at the headquarters who want to get a bite to eat also have healthy choices in front of them at a café onsite.

A menu complete with nutritional information helps them make better choices, and options include more healthful items such as fresh fruit, low-calorie sandwiches, brown breads and pasta, and turkey instead of beef.

“We do annual health screenings as well, and then we get a report giving us an overall picture of how employees collectively did,” Janda said. “We’ll then hold lunch-and-learn seminars on topics depending on where those screenings fell.”

The company Internet wellness page also offers up-to-date news on pressing issues such as the flu, and offers resources on how to make healthier lifestyle changes.

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