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Oro Valley's Path to Maintaining Employee Health & Wellness

With health care costs continually on the rise, the Town of Oro Valley believes that it can stay ahead of the curve by employing a proactive approach to keeping its employees healthy and well. As a result, the Town has implemented a Health and Wellness program as a long-term investment to keeping a healthy workforce, while also reducing health care costs.

November 25, 2014

The Town of Oro Valley’s Health and Wellness program originally began in 2005 and consisted of health fairs that offered a few medical screenings and some health literature. In 2009, the program was expanded to include more health screenings and also to contract a Wellness Coach, who works for the Wellness Council of Arizona.

Over the last several years, the Town of Oro Valley has been developing its multifaceted Health and Wellness program with the goal of improving employee wellness and reducing medical-related expenses. The underlying goal is to encourage employees to be proactive in their health, ultimately reducing the amount of severe or long-term health issues. Through the utilization of health and wellness campaigns, classes and lectures, an on-site health clinic, and the transition to a self-funded health insurance program, the majority of Town staff now understands the value of a healthier lifestyle.

The Health and Wellness program is managed by the Town Manager and the Health & Wellness Committee, which incorporates representatives from each department. Today, the Town offers annual health and wellness campaigns, quarterly programs, and weekly on-site office hours by the Wellness Coach, as well as various health classes and exercise activities.

The Town’s Wellness Coach facilitates the various nutritional and exercise programs for employees. In addition, she provides individual guidance to Town employees regarding nutrition and exercise during her office hours, which are located at Town Hall for employee convenience.

To facilitate participation, many programs are rotated and offered on a weekly basis during lunch or after work. Yoga and Zumba classes are offered weekly and throughout the year. Strength training and conditioning programs are also offered periodically.

Part of the Town’s philosophy on health and wellness was illustrated in a 2012 decision to transition from a fully-insured health insurance program to a self-insured program, which resulted in a cost savings of approximately $353,000 in the first year.

In January 2015, the Town will open an on-site health clinic, funded by a portion of the self-insured savings. This long-term investment in employees will reduce claim costs by offering the services of a nurse and nurse practitioner, seeing as many as 45 patients per week. The on-site clinic will help employees by providing comprehensive preventative care, reducing employee absenteeism for medical appointments and reducing the risk of catastrophic medical emergencies. The clinic will also work more closely with the Wellness Coach. The nurse practitioner may recommend to the patient that he/she utilize a program offered by the Wellness Coach.

The on-site clinic will also reduce the need for expensive point-of-service settings such as the emergency room. The Town will save approximately $450 each time an employee utilizes the clinic instead of the emergency room. Last year’s emergency room visits were 43% above the national average.

The Town of Oro Valley will kick off its Year of Wellness initiative this month, which will include a presentation from the Town Manager that unveils this year’s health programs, success stories and prizes. This year’s motto is “Got Wellness?” To encourage employee participation and facilitate comradery, each department has been tasked with creating its own motto and photo concept for the promotional campaign. This campaign will allow employees to commit, set, and track goals throughout the year, while encouraging participation in quarterly programs.

After this month’s kick-off, the Town will begin the annual “Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Weight Challenge.” Participants will earn raffle tickets for various prizes based on their ability to maintain or lose weight during the holiday season.

One of the quarterly programs includes the “Team Weight Loss Challenge,” during which employees lost a total of 140 pounds last year, and the “Know Your Numbers” program, which provides an opportunity for employees to have biometric screenings (body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose level, etc.) to better track their health and wellness. Due to the expense of health care costs and claims, Town employees will see a $10 increase in premiums for each pay period this year; however, the Town has offered an opportunity to offset 100% of that increase if an employee participates in the “Know Your Numbers” program. Although most employees have already been participating in this particular program, 228 out of 272 eligible employees, or 84%, are now participating.

Educational opportunities are also offered. Monthly “Lunch and Learn” programs provide information on a variety of topics, such as healthy recipes, sun safety and how to handle holiday stress. “Healthy U” is an eight-week program to help educate employees about healthy lifestyles. Class topics include: setting goals, nutrition 101, exercise science, stress reduction, self-care habits, and fast foods and diets.

The Town encourages exercise and healthy activity outside of work through partnerships with local gyms for employee discounts, free employee access to the Oro Valley Aquatic Center, and subsidizing entry fees for local races/competitions such as the Arizona Distance Classic and El Tour de Tucson.

The Town understands that health costs may continue to increase in the future, and therefore, it is our philosophy that being proactive in our employees’ health and wellness will result in not only a reduction of medical expenses and claims, but also happier employees who lead healthy lifestyles.

By Town Manager Greg Caton  - Alliance for Innovation, November 2014