Family Medicine's Workplace Wellness Program reduces costs while making employees happier and healthier

The Town of Chapel Hill was recently named one of the Triangle’s Healthiest Employers by the Triangle Business Journal because of its innovative employee wellness program designed and delivered by UNC Family Medicine called Wellness@Work.

Family Medicine's Workplace Wellness Program reduces costs while making employees happier and healthier click to enlarge Jim Orr from the Town of Chapel Hill and Dr. Mark Gwynne from UNC Family Medicine accept the award

On Dec. 6, the Town of Chapel Hill was named one of the Triangle’s Healthiest Employers by the Triangle Business Journal because of its innovative employee wellness program called Wellness@Work. Chapel Hill Wellness@Work was established in 2011 through a collaborative partnership between the Town of Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care’s Department of Family Medicine.

The umbrella program, Wellness@Work, is a program designed and delivered by UNC Family Medicine medical professionals to provide comprehensive health and wellness programs for local employers that translate into tangible benefits. Those benefits include reduced absenteeism, lower health care costs, and higher productivity. UNC Family Medicine is in the process of designing a tailored Wellness@Work program for the Town of Hillsborough and is in talks with other area employers to further expand the program.

Reduced cost was especially important to the Town of Chapel Hill who employs more than 660 full-time employees on a tight budget. “We believe that easy access to basic preventative health services and education can help employees better manage their health needs, while reducing medical costs,” said Town Manager Roger Stancil.

And he is right. Due to the establishment of a dedicated employee wellness clinic and easy employee access to many additional prevention services, the Town has already decreased its insurance premiums by more than $100,000.

Chapel Hill Wellness@Work worked with representatives from the Town’s employee group to tailor its program to the specific needs of the Town’s workforce. It includes programs to support tobacco cessation, weight loss, proper nutrition, and developing other healthy habits.

“We get in there and work with employers to create a culture of wellness,” says Dr. Mark Gwynne, Medical Director for Wellness@Work. Today the Town of Chapel Hill offers regular walking groups, yoga, cooking classes and even reduced gym memberships. “We help coordinate lunch ‘n’ learns to teach employees about healthy lifestyles and focus on reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions,” Dr. Gwynne says.

But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to wellness services, the program includes a fully staffed employee clinic that provides on-site minor illness and injury care as well as preventative care like flu shots.  All at no cost to employees. Employees can access their own personalized web-based health information portal where they can schedule appointments, interact with the nurse practitioner, view their own voluntary health assessment data and access health education resources.

Today US Employers spend an average of about $18,000 per employee per year for costs related to health care and lost productivity due to illness. The research tells us that comprehensive programs like Wellness@Work have the potential to help employers cut these costs by more than 50%.

That is good for the taxpayer. Good for the employer. And most importantly, good for our health!

For more information, contact Julea Steiner, Wellness@Work Program Director at 919-966-8081.