Campaign designed to encourage wellness in region

Hank Hayes • Jul 14, 2013 at 6:25 PM

KINGSPORT — Improving the overall health of the region’s workforce is the goal of a new information campaign launched last week by Wellmont Health System and top regional employers.

The campaign, Wellmont LiveWell, is a free Internet-based service at www.wellmont.org.

People using the service will complete a registration process and then have the option to get personalized information on health topics such as diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. They can also take a free health assessment, access a health library and view an online calendar of healthy local events in the region.

Wellmont officials and the employers, who rolled out the campaign at a news conference on Wednesday, cited a report showing most Northeast Tennessee counties in the middle of the pack or in the lower half in the state for health outcomes. Three Southwest Virginia counties also rank in the top five unhealthiest in the commonwealth, according to the report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The group also cited studies indicating residents in the region of Appalachia have a 15 percent to 20 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than people who live elsewhere.

Wellmont President and CEO Denny DeNarvaez stressed health-care providers need to shift efforts from treating sick people to helping them stay healthy every day.

Charlie Floyd, Kingsport mill manager at Domtar Paper Company and chairman of NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership, indicated workers need to do more with their personal preventative maintenance.

“We need to do a better job emphasizing ‘presenteeism’ in our workplace,” Floyd said. “Prospective businesses want to know if there are adequate health-care facilities [in the region]. ... Those businesses also want to know about the health status of the region, and that’s something we’re not so proud of right now.”

Perry Stuckey, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Eastman Chemical Co., noted his company’s health initiatives have included lowering prices on healthy food in the company cafeteria and establishing on-site fitness centers.

“I believe a healthy employee is more productive,” Stuckey said. “When we’re looking for engineers and scientists, they want to be in a region that believes in fitness.”

Stuckey pointed out participating in the LiveWell initiative was not about reducing anticipated higher insurance premiums related to federal health care reform.

“It’s about how we help our employees live longer, healthier lives. ... It’s about having healthy workers in the community,” he said.

Steve Smith, president and chief executive officer of Food City’s parent company, K-VA-T Food Stores, noted his grocery store chain has created awareness of food nutrition through its “NuVal” nutrition scoring system.

“As the region’s largest grocery store chain, we have a responsibility to provide appropriate health and wellness options to our customers,” Smith said.

Wellmont Senior Vice President Todd Norris said the LiveWell initiative is all about helping people make actionable health-care changes.

“We think this is going to take a long time to really change those [negative health care] metrics,” Norris said. “We’re trying to create a best practice approach with our employees that help them become healthier and work with other business to highlight improvements. ... We will do roundtable discussions to share information about what’s working, and what’s not working.”

Other employers joining the campaign are Alpha Natural Resources, Electro-Mechanical Corporation and Strongwell.

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