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Elon Wellness program receives top marks

The program placed #1 among employers of comparable size in the Triad Business Journal's "Healthiest Employers" ranking.


A recent report by The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area ranked the Elon University Faculty and Staff Wellness Center as best in class among employers with 500 to 1,499 employees.

The report, called "Healthiest Employers," was compiled by national research firm Healthiest Employer LLC and measured wellness programs in the Triad on six key areas: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communications and marketing, programming and intervention and reporting and analysis.

According to the report, in 2011, the screenings, tests and programs offered by the Elon’s Wellness Center resulted in 213 employees lowering blood pressure, 333 lowering their triglycerides, 133 losing weight and 18 quitting or decreasing smoking. The report also noted that visits to the on-site physician assistant more than doubled last year with a total of 743 visits, while the chair massage program saw 502 visits.

“All told, the offerings of Elon University’s Wellness Center were utilized 2,068 times last year. A study done by the university found that the wellness center’s offerings yielded savings of $93,000, both in saved time and increased productivity,” the report stated. “Of that figure, the physician assistant program saved $20,000, and the chair massage saved $18,000.”

Wellness Center staff from left to right: Janie Griffin, Belinda Day and Cindy Novak.

Elon’s Wellness Coordinator Janie Griffin said in the report that the real return on investment is the benefit to employees. She pointed to a recent free skin cancer screening, which found that 20 employees needed to have preventative work done. One employee discovered that he had early-stage melanoma.

“But it was early enough that they could easily treat it, and they think they’ve got it all,” she said. “That, to me, is return on investment.”

Established in 1993, the Wellness Center's mission is to promote a culture and climate where faculty/staff can become more engaged in healthy lifestyle behaviors through the provision of health and wellness resources and information. Griffin and Cindy Novak serve as program coordinators while Belinda Day is the program's assistant. Besides offering free health screenings and other medical services, the center also offers exercise classes for faculty and staff. For more information about the Center, visit its website.


From the Healthiest Employers report:
When did your wellness program begin and how did it get started?
The school developed a student wellness program in 1987 and the faculty/staff program in 1993.

How has it evolved since then?
The program has grown from one nurse available one day per week to three part-time staffers, including the physician assistant. Available resources include on-site laboratory tests and diabetic education, among others. There are also collaborations with the School of Physical Therapy, sports medicine program and Alamance Regional Medical Center for screenings and evaluations.

Best example of how your wellness efforts made a difference in the well-being on an employee?
One employee who had a family history of breast cancer had her first mammogram through the university’s program. The test revealed that she had Stage 3 breast cancer. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy and is now cancer-free.

What’s been the biggest hindrance for your program?
Getting the wellness word out to the entire university community — which spans numerous buildings in Elon and Greensboro — can be tough, Griffin says.

In numbers, what’s been the return on investment?
The university’s budget covers the salaries of the wellness office staff, which includes two office workers and a program assistant, as well as operating expenses for the center’s programs, physician assistant and wellness screenings. The center’s programs resulted in $93,000 in direct savings for the university, according to a study completed last year.

What’s the next step?
The Wellness Center will continue to explore ways to expand collaborative efforts with the university’s School of Health Sciences, which includes a doctoral program in physical therapy and a master’s program in physician assistant studies. The collaboration provides training and educational opportunities for enrolled students. Another priority is expanding the physician assistant hours.

Keren Rivas,
6/27/2012 8:14 AM