Employee Wellness: GE’s HealthAhead ProgramDec 8th, 2010 | By Rachel Becker | Category: Featured Articles, Health and Safety
Last year, General Electric (GE) launched Healthymagination, an initiative aimed at driving healthcare innovation globally and committing to reduce costs, improve quality, and expand healthcare access for millions of people. An important component of Healthymagination is HealthAhead, GE’s internal effort to improve the health of GE employees and their families proactively and to contain healthcare costs. HealthAhead’s goal is to create a healthy and engaged workforce and promote a culture of wellness.
HealthAhead includes a healthy worksite certification program. Significant employee and financial resources are required to create healthy worksites. For example, large sites may be required to spend US$100,000 or more to put the required programs in place.
This comprehensive program evaluates site efforts in the following areas:
- Leadership and Wellness Teams—Site teams are developed to implement the HealthAhead program.
- Education and Prevention—Employees and their families are made aware of the recommended medical screening tests for their age and risk groups, and they are educated about how to prevent chronic diseases. Various health screenings and flu shots are also made available to employees on-site.
- Healthy Nutrition—Cafeterias and vending machines are required to carry healthy foods so employees can make better choices.
- Physical Activity—Because adults should engage in moderately intense physical activity on most days of the week to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, physical activity is promoted via on-site fitness opportunities, subsidized gym memberships, or both.
- Tobacco—Plans are developed with the goal of eliminating tobacco use on GE property starting in March 2011. If employees currently smoke or use other forms of tobacco, resources are available to help them quit.
- Stress Management—Sites are required to have resources in place to help employees manage stress and to train managers in how to identify the symptoms of stress.
- Health-Related Absences—Active management of employees with health-related absences is undertaken. Transitional work assignments provide a bridge for employees with temporary injuries or illnesses to return to work before they attain a full recovery and full productivity at their regular jobs.
- Health Answers and Lifestyle Coaching—A questionnaire designed to provide a health risk profile for employees confidentially assesses employees’ health status and provides various program tools to help them improve it.
Certification is a rigorous process that requires months of program execution and business-level oversight before sites are eligible to be considered for the final audit process. GE HealthAhead program experts and corporate audit staff members conduct the formal audits. Once certified, sites are expected to demonstrate continuous, year-over-year improvement to their programs and are required to be reaudited periodically to maintain certification.
To date, 44 GE sites have been recognized as HealthAhead Certified. Approximately 100 sites are expected to receive certification in 2010. In time, these efforts are expected to reduce healthcare costs per employee, increase productivity, and result in a healthier workforce. Ultimately, supporting healthy behaviors at work is good for the company, the employees, and their families. It is likely that more companies will benchmark with GE and adopt this model in the future.
About the Author
Rachel Becker is the EHS Leader at the GE Aviation plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.A. This plant, which has more than 3000 employees, received HealthAhead Certification in November 2010.