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YMCA Promotes Programs for Workplace Wellness

YOUNGTOWN, Ohio – The YMCA of Youngstown is offering new tools and programs to help the local business community deal with the daunting problems involved with promoting employee wellness.

A group of local businesspeople gathered Monday morning at the Central Branch of the YMCA to hear about some of the new options available to employers with and without wellness programs.

Statistics clearly explain why employee wellness is so crucial for business, said Thomas Gasce, president and CEO of YMCA. “Seven out of 10 deaths are the result of chronic diseases. And 91% of prescription costs are attributed to chronic diseases,” he said. “This takes a toll on families, communities and businesses.”

For employees currently in the workforce, statistics are equally as dire, added Kevin Ruse, YMCA’s director of healthcare and business development. “One-third of the American workforce is prediabetic,” he said. Only 10% are aware that they fall into that group.

But there’s good news. Manageable behaviors are responsible for 80% of chronic diseases, Gasce said.

“If you can manage your behaviors, then we can make a dent and help out with chronic diseases,” he explained. “And that’s what the wellness programs are all about is to help manage behaviors and have [employees] make better choices.”

The YMCA’s workplace wellness program offers numerous tools for employers seeking to promote employee engagement, including subsidies toward employee memberships, biometric screenings and health risk assessments for employees. A new YMCA partnership with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation is giving local employers more ways to improve their own wellness programs, Gasce said.

“We’re partnering with hChoices, an organization based Cleveland, to put on a wellness program in connection with the grant from the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. The employer can come to us, set up the wellness program and receive funds from the state of Ohio through the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation to fund that.”

Called Y’s Choice, the wellness program is open to businesses of all sizes and provides a full-service turnkey solution or supplemental support for an existing wellness program. Health risk assessments, structured health interventions and a portal that develops real-time aggregate reports are among the program’s offerings.

“Most importantly, it provides technology: portal access to education and information that helps people – once identified by their risk factors – address them,” Ruse said.

Access to data is one of the crucial failings of most wellness programs, Gasce said. “Most wellness programs don’t have any kind of measurements or metrics, so they’re really not very valuable to the employee or the employer. With the wellness program we have, there are measurements as to what’s going on with the employee.”

The grant frequently covers all of the Y Choice’s Wellness Program cost for companies with less than 50 employees and provides subsides of up to $15,000 for companies with 50 or more employees. “The grant itself takes 10 minutes,” said Mark Clendenin, northeast regional business development manager for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

The YMCA offers other data-driven programs for employees at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.

“The YMCA has two evidence-based chronic disease prevention programs: the diabetes prevention program and the Livestrong at the YMCA program,” Ruse said.

The 25-week diabetes prevention program has a high success rate, he said, with approximately 58% of at-risk graduates of the program not developing Type 2 diabetes.

“When you stop someone’s progression to Type 2 diabetes, you’re definitely going to impact medical and safety claims, improve absenteeism – and that adds up to profitability for corporations,” Ruse emphasized.

Speaking to the general importance of health-related problems plaguing many Ohioans, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni told the crowd, “We have to change lifestyle by action.”

That’s one of the reasons why the YMCA plans to continue to engage employers, Gasce added.

“We want to make sure that the community is healthy as a whole, and the business community is a big part of that.”

Pictured: Kevin Ruse, YMCA of Youngstown director of healthcare and business development.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.