Friday, August 31, 2012

A Woman’s Worth…

These days it seems like businesses are looking to cut costs every chance they get, while also seeking to raise productivity and their bottom line. As we all know, these two don’t usually mesh.

There is one situation however, when the stars align, and productivity and cost-cutting come together – in programs designed to improve the health of female employees, providing benefits not only to them, but to the business as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women are about 60 percent more likely than men to miss work because of illness or injury. BLS also reports that women are more likely to take prescription medications. Therefore, working to get women healthy, and keep them that way, is a business must-do.

So what kind of programs can companies participate in that are easy to implement and help women get healthy? Check out some of the following ideas:

For busy women on the go. Health insurers are now giving employees mobile apps that place health care and insurance information at their fingertips wherever they are, enabling them to make more informed health care decisions in a way that is more convenient for them.

Make managing health care easier. Many insurers offer online resources that help their members manage health care and health care expenses. Some offer online resources and programs that specifically address women’s health, such as UnitedHealthcare’s, which features online seminars, health and nutrition tips, a chat room and several blogs, all dedicated to women’s health issues.

Focus on issues most important to women. Employers should consider programs that address women’s specific health needs, such as healthy pregnancy programs. But, smoking cessation, nutrition and weight loss programs, aimed at overall wellness, can help both women and men alike.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Employers can encourage female employees to get health screenings such as Pap smears and mammograms by giving them time off from work or scheduling flexibility to see their doctor.

Work together for women’s health. While a financial contribution is always helpful, employers can make a more meaningful impact by encouraging employees to volunteer for charitable events or serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations focused on women’s health. A recent report by VolunteerMatch provides compelling evidence that volunteering not only enhances volunteers’ physical and mental health but also strengthens relationships between employers and employees. 

The first step to putting any initiative into place should be to survey your employees to determine what workplace and personal issues might be preventing them from maintaining good health habits.  By focusing on wellness for women in the workforce, a company can strengthen its bottom line as well!
A UnitedHealthcare employee takes advantage of the cafeteria salad bar for a healthy lunch

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Season of Wellness

The pools are emptying, the beach chairs are being shoved into the garage and the back-to-school sales commercials are once again filling the airwaves. With the end of the summer season comes another hotly anticipated season, one that presents much opportunity and often, brings up many questions. Who’s top ranked? What’s the winning combination? Which one will give me the best coverage? Will I have enough time to make my pick? …I’m not talking fantasy football, I’m talking about open enrollment season.

Open enrollment season is when employees review and select their health benefits package for the following year. It gives them a few weeks to evaluate the options presented by their employers.

Employees will naturally want to know if the Affordable Care Act has affected or will affect their coverage or their premiums and some may be confused about the impact of the new health care law.

Employers can help employees during open enrollment by having their human resource director, benefits consultant or health insurance representative make group presentations about what’s changing and, just as importantly, what’s staying the same.  Two of the most notable changes include 100 percent coverage for a wide number of preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance, as well as the ability to keep dependents on a parent’s policy until age 26.

This year may also mark the first time that employees of many small businesses, with anywhere between two to 50 employees, will have more than a couple of benefit plan choices to choose from.   In the past, small businesses would typically only be able to offer their employees one plan design. But over the past year, many health insurers have begun offering multi-choice packages to small businesses to better accommodate varied employee needs. So, a 20-something single employee might opt for a plan with a higher deductible, while someone with children might prefer a lower one.

Health insurance can sometimes be a daunting proposition with confusing terminology and seemingly impossible choices. It’s imperative, therefore, that employers take this time to help guide their employees, ease their concerns and answer questions brought up by new regulations and options. Employees should also be encouraged to do their homework to become better educated healthcare consumers, and use the many online and mobile device tools insurance companies provide to help them in the decision-making process.  Better information leads to better decisions and better health!
UnitedHealthcare representative is on site at a local business to help employees better understand their health benefits

Friday, August 17, 2012

Take a Small Step Toward a Big Difference

I’ve talked many times about the obesity crisis in our country and its effects. It seems like such a daunting task to improve the overall health of our nation. Pounds unfortunately only come off one at a time. We’ve looked for the magic solution that will fix it overnight, but what we always come to realize is that it’s the decisions we make every day. There’s no miracle, fast-track cure – it’s the small, but steady, steps that eventually lead to better health.

We all know that a carrot is better for us than a candy bar and broccoli is a better choice over fries, but what happens when your local store’s shelves are more processed than produce? With a lack of access to healthy foods, many communities are denied the chance to make smart choices about healthy eating. Not surprisingly, these underserved communities have high rates of obesity. The Centers for Disease Control classifies more than one-third of U.S. adults as obese, and socioeconomic and racial disparities are often identified as common factors for obesity. By giving residents in targeted communities the means to learn and practice healthy eating, UnitedHealthcare’s Small Steps Program hopes to reduce the prevalence of diet-related illnesses.

More than 1,600 Philadelphians are expected to take some small steps to improve their health over the next 8 weeks. UnitedHealthcare’s national “Small Steps” program, now in its second year, encourages residents in underserved communities to make positive lifestyle changes and reduce their risk of obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

In partnership with Greater Philadelphia Health Action, Inc. (GPHA), a non-profit community-based health organization serving some 85,000 patients, UnitedHealthcare will help patients who utilize GPHA facilities take small steps to improve their health such as meeting with a nutritionist and redeeming “Philly Food Bucks” at local farmers’ markets.

During the 2011 8-week program, more than 1,600 people took advantage of the Small Steps program. The 2012 program, which began on August 1st, gives program participants who see a nutritionist at a GPHA facility up to $8.00 in Philly Food Bucks to buy fruits and vegetables at nearby Food Trust Farmers’ Markets. Participants also receive recipe cards featuring simple and tasty dishes using fresh fruits and vegetables.

What I find most exciting about this program is that it goes into the communities to try and prevent rather than treat diet-related illnesses. We aren’t asking them to toss out all of their favorite foods. Our goal is simply to make healthy food available and affordable; two small steps that can make a big difference.
UnitedHealthcare's Dr. Health E. Hound takes a tour of the federally qualified health center in Pennsylvania

Friday, August 10, 2012

Need Something Done? Ask a Woman.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Governor Corbett took her words to heart recently when he appointed 29 new members to the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. I am honored to say that I was asked to chair this group of sharp, accomplished and dedicated business and community leaders.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Women serves as the Commonwealth's advocate agency for legislation affecting women. We are tasked with identifying and advancing the diverse needs and interests of Pennsylvania women and girls by monitoring women’s educational and employment needs, promoting job training and upward mobility for women, encouraging the operation and support of women owned businesses, and creating mentoring programs.

I was humbled by the Governor’s offer and it didn’t take me long to realize that it was something I could not pass up. At the core of my business and personal values is a dedication to mentoring. I would never have achieved all I have without the advice and support of those inspiring women who have come before me. I am grateful for the opportunity to help support so many women.

We had our first statewide organizational meeting earlier this week to get the ball rolling! At our upcoming regional meetings and work groups, I know we will accomplish much toward our goals of advocating for women’s economic opportunities, civic engagement and mentoring programs.

“The women selected to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission for Women are diverse and dynamic, their impact in our state has been significant. I look forward to the great successes the Pennsylvania Commission for Women will achieve.” Governor, we won’t let you down.

Governor Tom Corbett and Pennsylvania Commission on Women

Friday, August 3, 2012

On The Road to Family Reunion…and Good Health

No one cares about you like your family does, which is why I have always admired the tradition of family reunions celebrated by many African American families. Each summer many families will pile into cars, jump on board trains or get on an airplane and travel hundreds of miles for their annual family reunion.

In the African-American community, family reunions are more than just a tradition. Through months of planning for a weekend to include story-telling, sports (and sometimes talent) competitions, outdoors fun and lots of good food, reunions have contributed to the endurance of the African-American family unit, even in uncertain and turbulent times. They continue to serve their original purpose, but have evolved to also become effective ways to encourage lifestyle changes critical to African-Americans. In 2005, the National Institutes of Health urged African-Americans to use family reunions as venues for discussions about diabetes and kidney disease, which disproportionately affect this population.

Through its “Generations of Wellness” program, UnitedHealthcare is looking for the stories of families who have taken good health to heart. By sharing examples of how they’ve improved their own or their family’s health, they become eligible for a chance to win $5,000 towards the cost of their next family reunion.

Do you have a good-news story about how your family health has improved? Whether it’s how you all got moving and in better shape, replaced your soul food favorites with heart healthy variations or prevented a critical illness like diabetes, submit your entry to the “Generations of Wellness” initiative now through August 24 at Be sure to bookmark the site so you can go back and vote from Sept. 3 to Sept. 15.

In my work, I often have the pleasure of hearing how people have started new chapters in their lives by making positive lifestyle changes. I love stories with happy endings, don’t you?