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UPMC wellness program applauded

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:45 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Ashley Battles of Morningside leads her co-workers at Wesley Spectrem Services in chair exercises in the Wilkinsburg office. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

Doug Muetzel, CEO of Downtown-based Wesley Spectrum Services, a mental health and social service provider, said it's reassuring when the designer of your workplace wellness program garners national attention.

“If you are trying to convey that you're passionate about kids and their families like we are, you've got to look out for the well-being of your own staff, too. It's important — having a program in place that reflects our mission on a very personal level with our employees,” Muetzel said.

Wesley's provider, the UPMC Health Plan and UPMC, received the platinum award from the National Business Group on Health for the fourth consecutive year for delivering innovative and comprehensive health management and services through its MyHealth program.

The program is designed to maintain and improve the health, productivity and quality of life of employees, while reducing bad habits and employers' health care costs.

The program helped keep UPMC's annual health care cost increases — called a cost trend — at 1.1 percent. That's far below national and regional averages of nearly 7 percent.

“We're really very proud of our program to be cited among just seven programs nationwide. It's also a benchmarking tool, enabling us to take a look at our own program and to compare it to what's going on in the rest of the country,” said Stephen Doyle, senior manager for UPMC Health Plan.

UPMC has more than 55,000 employees in Western Pennsylvania; Wesley, about 450. Each company notes that more than 90 percent of its employees participated in health risk assessment surveys and more than 98 percent in “Take A Healthy Step” programs, to boost healthy habits.

“We've been able to mirror their (participation) numbers, and I credit it being a grassroots effort here. If people just get a note from the CEO to participate, it just won't happen, but if people look around during a program enrollment meeting and notice co-workers are there participating in WOW (Wesley on Wellness) activities, the employees will take ownership of it,” Muetzel said.

Doyle noted a 38 percent reduction in tobacco use. More than 9,000 employees participated in a recent “weight race” and lost a combined 16.5 tons over 12 weeks. UPMC's “Let's Get Active” campaign, which encourages employees to exercise the equivalent of one mile each day at least five days a week for four weeks, attracted more than 3,000 employees and logged activity equal to more than 212,000 miles.

Confluence, an investment data management automation firm headquartered on the North Shore, recently said it would add an on-site health coach through a pilot UPMC Health Plan program called, “MyHealth Coach @ Work.” The health coach will work with employees for four hours, one day each week.

Dr. Michael Parkinson, senior medical director of health for UPMC Health Plan, said the program will enable employers to purchase health coach services to fit their needs. He noted that it makes a typically “luxury” service more affordable to a wider range of companies.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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