By Victor Paul Alvarez
PBN Staff Writer
By Victor Paul Alvarez
PBN Staff Writer
Art Greenwood lost 30 pounds.
He tried for years to go it alone, but when he found the combination of competition, healthy colleagues and tips from his fellow employees at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, it finally clicked for him. Greenwood availed himself of the Neighborhood Health Plan Neighborhood Shape Up Rhode Island team. The initiative is among the many that makes the company one of the state’s Healthiest Employers.
“We design our wellness program each year to have a variety of programs that will reach a staff that is very diverse in age, gender and cultural background. Every workshop doesn’t work for every staff member, so we offer a variety of events so that we can reach as many of them as possible. We encourage a healthy lifestyle of nutrition awareness, stress management, benefits of exercise and health-risk appraisals,” said Frank Tabela, director of human resources.
Sonia Pontes lost 20 pounds as part of the Neighborhood Shape Up Rhode Island team. Pontes had always been a consistent exerciser, but working with the team helped her change her diet.
She also has regularly participated in the Circle of Parents program.
Unique programs such as Circle of Parents bring a lot to the healthy table at Neighborhood Health Plan. When people think of wellness in the workplace, they typically think of on-site massage services or healthy snacks in the vending machines. The Circle of Parents Program takes wellness a step further.
Led by Johanna Corcoran of Familytopia, the program helps parents, grandparents and anyone with children in their lives to better understand and manage being a guardian. Corcoran holds group meetings with staff members with discussions dictated largely by those who attend. She gives people advice on handling delicate situations relating to work and family, and she continually asks for feedback from the group. Familytopia’s motto is: “Strong families, from the inside out.”
It says a lot about a company that’s willing to dig so deep to help their employees find wellness in and out of the workplace. Corcoran praises Neighborhood Health Plan for its innovation and commitment.
“I have to tell you, I always refer to Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island as my model client,” Corcoran said. “Not only do I do the Circle of Parents with them, but they have taken advantage of every service I offer employers,” she said.
This includes her summer-camp seminar. On a specific day Corcoran brings representatives from up to 20 local summer camps to take up station in the Neighborhood Health Plan cafeteria. At their lunch break, employees can meet with these representatives to find out which camp is best for their children. Imagine being able to tackle one of your major summertime decisions about raising your children from the comfort and convenience of your employee cafeteria.
“I also help coordinate Take Your Children To Work Day along with other parenting workshops. The fact that they’re always so receptive to the ideas I present them with tells me that they really care about their employees. Not only there in the workplace but outside as well,” Corcoran said.
Michael Nina lost 20 pounds as part of Neighborhood Shape Up Rhode Island team.
Nina found being accountable to his team motivated him to work harder at being consistent with diet and exercise. That team approach is part of what makes Neighborhood Health Plan so successful in keeping its employees fit and happy.
“This [wellness program] gives them an education on healthy lifestyle habits, relieves stress and helps ensure that staff members are more productive. By increasing their education and developing healthy habits, they lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health-related illnesses,” Tabela said.
A healthy workforce may be the desire of many companies, but it’s especially important when you’re in the health business. Employees at Neighborhood Health Plan can actually relate to their members when they share advice about healthy living.
“I think it’s very important,” said Kathy Williams, the company’s human resource specialist responsible for the wellness program. “It’s what we do.”
It’s a little like checking out the barber’s haircut before you sit in the chair. If he looks good, maybe you will, too. If your health care professional presents a fit appearance and understands wellness, it’s a safe bet that he can pass that knowledge and confidence along to company members.
“Our organization is always finding new ways to improve the health of our members, and we make sure to also instill that same message to our employees,” Tabela said.
“The health and well-being of our employees is very important to us. We encourage our staff to participate in the various events we have through the year such as skin-screening clinics, parenting meetings, CPR training and massage day, to name a few,” Tabela said.
The wellness committee at Neighborhood Health Plan creates a new team every year. This keeps the approach fresh and interesting – just as an exercise program should confuse your muscles from time to time to avoid fatigue and plateaus. There are some constants – wellness screenings, massage days, workshops, etc. However, with a new team comes new ideas. For example, this year was the first year the company offered the insanely popular Zumba at work.
It was a hit. Now it’s in the regular rotation.
The company’s approach seems to be working. Not only has it made the list at PBN, but it has been recognized by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island for its wellness program for the last four years.
“These rewards reflect our commitment to our wellness initiatives,” Tabela said. •