Programs administered by the UAB School of Nursing have contributed to the City of Birmingham’s recognition as one of America’s healthiest companies by the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA).

School of Nursing Professor Michael Weaver, the principal investigator of the Good Health Program, is pleased with the City of Birmingham’s recent recognition as one of America’s healthiest companies.

Birmingham’s Working Well initiative, which incorporates the School of Nursing-administered Good Health Program, received WELCOA’s prestigious Gold Award for its rigorous health-promotion standards and its commitment to improving the health and well-being of employees.

Birmingham designed the 15-year-old Working Well initiative as an umbrella system that includes the university-  administered Good Health Program, Medical Services Unit and Back School.

Data collected by the School of Nursing quantifies the programs’ success – and reveals the reasons Birmingham was selected for the award.

Michael Weaver, Ph.D., UAB School of Nursing professor and principal investigator of the Good Health Program, says the recent progress report presented to the city shows excellent progress in several key areas. Examples include:
Individual and group counseling with a registered dietician: Workers who took advantage of this program reported an average weight loss of 3.8 pounds within one to two months after the counseling began.
The Active Plus program: This program is an intense exercise and nutrition program for employees with diabetes. Employees in this program reported an average loss of 7.5 pounds and lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They also reduced their total cholesterol by 10 units and increased their HDL (good) cholesterol by 5.5 units. All of this occurred within 15 weeks.
The Eat Smart group nutrition class: Employees in this class had an average weight loss of nine pounds and a one-half inch waist-circumference reduction.

“Those results are encouraging, given the difficulty that individuals have even to maintain their weight,” Weaver says.

Ann Thompson, director of Office Personnel for the city, says the health benefits of the program for the city’s employees who participate are noticeable.

“These lifestyle changes ultimately result in fewer doctor visits, lower costs for prescription medications and, of course, a reduction in health-care costs,” Thompson says.

“Our Wellness Program definitely has been an asset for our employees and Birmingham.”

School of Nursing Dean Doreen Harper, Ph.D., is pleased that the city and the school have been able to experience success together in their endeavor.

“The Good Health Program provides preventive health services to Birmingham’s municipal employees,” Harper says. “This partnership between UAB’s School of Nursing and the city is helping keep Birmingham well.”

Weaver says Birmingham has been able to get good results because of the multifaceted approach used in the program.

The School of Nursing targets those employees considered high risk for health problems and personally invites them to sign up for programs.

“We’ve found that the personal touch is very important,” Weaver says.

Weight management and control is a big focus of the program because, as Weaver says, it’s difficult to focus on improving health and reducing health risks and risks for on-the-job injuries without maintaining a healthy weight.

“It’s well known that overweight and obese persons are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, occupational injury and other problems,” Weaver says.

“That’s why nutrition and exercise are key components of the program. People know what’s good for them; the difficulty is trying to get people do the right thing.”

Money saver
Not only has the program helped many of the city’s employees adopt a healthier lifestyle, it’s saved them – and the city – money. The return on investment for the city, according to its figures, is that every $1 spent on the Good Health Program has saved $10, including an estimated $4 million annually.

In fact, Weaver says, the city’s numbers show, as a percentage, medical costs in fiscal year 2005 (41.7 percent of its benefits budget) are almost the same as 1985 (almost 40 percent).

“That’s pretty good, given the historical medical rate of inflation,” Weaver says. “There’s no way to say that all of that was due solely to the Good Health Program, but it’s an example that the program was a part of helping to moderate those increases.”