URMC: Employee Wellness Program improves heart health

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Mary Cariola Children’s Center is one of 54 local employers that offer a wellness program administered by UR Medicine.

CEO Karen Zandi used it to get her high cholesterol under control.

“My coach Joe kept saying, ‘how can I help you achieve your goals?'”, Zandi said. “That’s their tag line, ‘We have one goal. Yours.'”

Zandi is in good company. New research shows the UR Medicine Employee Wellness program has had a dramatic impact in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.

In a five-year study, URMC looked at 9000 participants. 50% of those who were moderate to high risk for cardiovascular disease were able to reduce that risk for the next ten years.

30% were able to lower their risk by a full risk category.

“We are not aware of any other study to date that had such a major impact on so many individuals,” said Irena Pesis-Katz, Senior Director of PHM Informatics and Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing at URMC.

Everyone who signs up for UR Wellness gets a screening and personal coaching from registered nurses, nutritionists and fitness trainers.

The focus is on altering behavior by targeting everything from nutrition to exercise and emotional well being.

“If we can help people modify the things that also contribute to the development of Cardiovascular Disease then it’s a win-win,” said Lisa Norsen, Chief Wellness Officer for UR Medicine Center for Employee Wellness. “It’s a win for the individual, it’s a win for the community and it’s a win for the health care system.”

“What I would say to employers is, make sure what you’re offering is effective,” says Renu Singh, CEO of UR Medicine Center for Employee Wellness. “Don’t be afraid of employee wellness programs because you’re most significant asset lies within your employees.”

Zandi said offering the program to Mary Cariola staff was a no-brainer.

“Self care is really important for them to be successful,” said Zandi.

Advocates say these programs have benefits far beyond the workplace. Zandi’s personal results prove it, and so do the results of this study.

The UR Medicine Employee Wellness Program was developed and is administered in the UR School of Nursing. It was first offered to UR employees in 2012 and now serves more than 40,000 employees in dozens of different companies throughout the region.

If you’d like to read the research on the impact on cardiovascular disease risk, click here.

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