Employee health program improves blood pressure, diabetes control

WASHINGTON, May 10 Employees who participated in a worksite health program improved blood pressure control by 9 percent and diabetes control by 15 percent, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's 8th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.

During three years (200406) of follow-up on 2,100 workers, researchers also found that absenteeism declined significantly at JEA, a municipal utility in Jacksonville, Fla. The number of employees who missed work due to hypertension dropped from 25.8 percent to 15.6 percent, while those who missed work because of diabetes dropped by 66.2 percent (from 50 percent to 16.9 percent).

Workplace accidents also dropped by nearly 70 percent from 83 incidents in 2003 to 25 incidents in 2006. In all, 20 of the 83 incidents in 2003 resulted in lost time away from work, compared to only seven incidents in 2006.

The rising cost of medical care and the utility's predominantly male workforce (median age, 47) contributed to the need for a program that focused on preventing heart and blood vessel disease, said Sharon A. Clark, D.H.Sc., lead author of the study and JEA's health promotion specialist.

"With an aging workforce, we were concerned with making a change to the modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease for our employees," Clark said.

While safety has long been a priority at the utility, about a dozen employees started the worksite health program in 1989. The workers had been walking along the bridges in Jacksonville's downtown river area during their lunch hours and decided they wanted a more formal exercise facility, Clark said.

"They approached the company to create a fitness center," she said. "Being a public utility, JEA has to be mindful of where its resources are spent."

The company agreed to provide the space, custodial help and security services, and the employees took out a loan for the equipment. The em

Contact: Karen Astle
American Heart Association

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