The Free Press, Mankato, MN


September 17, 2012

Our View: Wellness campaigns can make a difference

— A mom grocery shopping with her daughter fills her cart with chips, ice cream and sugary cereal, only to see that her daughter placed the same food products in her own small cart.

The new television ad is part of a powerful new campaign by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota aimed at the obesity epidemic. Part of the health insurer's "Today is the Day" campaign, the ads stress how bad choices by parents are emulated by their kids.

Blue Cross has been a leader in demonstrating that high-quality education and wellness efforts can have a real effect. Their anti-smoking campaigns have helped bring a significant reduction in tobacco use.

Blue Cross was in Mankato this week to showcase the success of local businesses and groups it has partnered with to develop meaningful wellness programs.

One of those partners, Mankato Clinic, began a wellness program for staff that uses a data-driven and practical approach that's shown success. All clinic staff were invited to fill out an online health survey. Those participating got back information to help them improve their own health. Collective information from all the surveys was then given -- without any individual names attached -- to the clinic's wellness committee to help it target its plans.

The areas of concern for staff are not surprising: the need for more physical activity, weight management and nutrition.

The clinic has responded with simple, practical steps such as putting healthier food in vending machines and serving items such as granola bars and fruit at meetings and functions rather than cookies and soda.

They also created distance-marked walking routes inside and outside buildings, added bike racks and actively encourage physical activities at work.       

Others, including the Mankato Public Schools, Dotson Co. and Schwickert's, also implemented wellness programs for employees and, in the case of the schools, for students.

Blue Cross, which will help clients set up wellness programs, says a good program starts with an assessment of employees, setting clear goals, measuring success, getting feedback and changing as needed.

The benefits of wellness programs are clear: health care cost savings, happier and more productive employees and less missed work. Still, too few organizations commit to long-term wellness programs.


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