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Reach out to nearby experts
Asking local experts to help employees improve their health at minimal or no cost is a great way to keep program costs low or even completely free.
"This can be a cost-effective and relationship-building method to provide key wellness programs to your employees," says Michael Booth, manager of health programs and human resources benefits at Portland, MEbased Unum, a benefits provider.
Booth suggests reaching out to local dieticians, physicians, chiropractors, osteopaths, parks and recreation groups, and organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
Diane Harris, RN, an employee health nurse at Franklin County Risk Management in Chambersburg, PA, says that Easter Seals did hearing screenings for $20 for 69 employees at the company's health and benefits fair. Local chiropractors set up a free booth to assess stress levels, and they gave a seated trigger point massage to 65 employees.
"Our county extension has nutrition and exercise programs we can access, and I have used their displays at our fair," adds Harris. "Also, our Community Services [department] has been contracted to provide a state grant-funded program called Healthy Steps. They can provide the program in house for our employees over 55 and the instructor is a county employee, so the cost is nil."
Also, because Harris serves on committees for a health local consortium called Healthy Communities Partnership, she is allowed access to some of their materials, such as fliers she's used for the company's walking programs and Smoker's Survival Kits that were supplied at no cost.
Harris also uses her Red Cross Instructor Certification through the local chapter to fulfill mandatory cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training requirements for more than 100 employees. The cost is $5 per certification card, which otherwise costs $40. "As a 'provider,' we get a special rate on the certifications, so our savings is significant," says Harris. "Also, as a provider, some of the materials used cost less."
At Cherokee Pharmaceuticals in Riverside, PA, "One thing we have done to keep our programs afloat is tap into the resources at our local university, which offers nursing and exercise science programs," says Roxann Shiber, RN, COHN, an occupational health nurse at Cherokee.
"The professors love to have the students come to our manufacturing site to gain practical experience, and we love having their students teaching our employees great things," she says.
The nursing students spend about eight days at the company through the semester. "They develop and present a health teaching project, in addition to directly interacting with our employees,' says Shiber. "The exercise science students usually spend about 20 hours a week for 12 weeks with us. They do everything from personal training in our fitness center to lunch-n-learn programs on all types of topics." Personal training services would otherwise cost $25 to $50 an hour, and lunch and learns could cost anywhere from $100 to $300, she estimates.
Weight Watchers is another program that Cherokee's employees appreciate, even though the company does not contribute anything to the cost. "They [employees] pay the full expense, but we coordinate the program and schedule meetings on the lunch hour," says Shiber. "This allows employees to have the benefit of the program without sacrificing home and family time."
At Franklin County, the American Cancer Society and the Department of Health did a joint presentation on skin, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancers. "We ran these 45 minute sessions at three different county worksites at the end of the day and during lunch-time. It was all free," says Harris.