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February 1, 2011

When It Comes to Combating Rising Health Care Costs and Risks, Virginia Businesses Have an Ally in UVA-WorkMed

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Sally Evans says she was intrigued by the opportunity to improve her health by learning to eat better and add ten-minute bursts of exercise into her daily routine.

In registering for six weekly classes at her workplace, she set her sights on experiencing higher energy levels, improved general health, and weight loss. While the program helped her lose three inches from her waist and five pounds overall, it provided something far more important. “I now have a greater sense of well being and more self-confidence that I can control my exercise schedule and diet,” she explains. “I’ve also gotten my whole family living a healthier lifestyle.”

Sally is just one of hundreds of workers who have completed No Sweat, an employer-sponsored wellness program that encourages simple changes in eating and exercise habits. Though intentionally small, the changes add up to big savings in employer health care costs.

“Companies that offer wellness programs like No Sweat save an estimated $500-700 per worker, per year in health care expenditures,” says Thomas Miller of UVA-WorkMed, an occupational health and wellness clinic at the University of Virginia Health System. “We estimate that No Sweat graduates who continue making the program’s dietary modifications and exercise three times a week can reduce their annual health care costs by an average of $235. Savings increase if they add other wellness practices to their lifestyles.”

Such savings are good news for employers. Since 2000, the cost of providing health care insurance to workers has soared an estimated 57 percent. On average, employer-sponsored coverage now costs $11,480 a year for families and $4,242 for individuals. While workers share some of these costs, on average they contribute only $2,973 a year toward family coverage and $627 for individual benefits.

Since its launch three years ago, UVA-WorkMed has become a cost-saving ally to businesses around the state. Besides offering wellness education in workplaces, the group provides drug, alcohol, tuberculosis and other health screenings; immunizations and flu shots; pre-hire and annual physicals, medical evaluations and fitness for duty assessments; and, proactive safety programming. Another important service is medical management of worker’s compensation cases. The clinic’s Medical Director, Dr. David Rubendall, is a certified Medical Review Officer and oversees worksite injury cases for numerous companies.

Giving businesses an extra edge in risk reduction and management is another key aspect of UVA-WorkMed’s mission. It performs wellness assessments that help businesses identify health risks within their workforces and take action on areas of concern. Wellness assessments also make employees aware of their own health status and potential risks. “Our counselors meet with employees to explain their assessment results and risk areas,” says Miller. “We encourage them to take preventive actions and work in partnership with their primary care physician.”

According to Liz Walters, human resources manager for Hyosung America in Scottsville, Virginia, her company has benefited from a range of services offered by UVA-WorkMed. Hyosung, a tire cord manufacturer, has a workforce of 110. It has contracted the clinic to provide employee health assessments, on-site flu shots, pre-hire drug screenings and management of workers’ compensation injuries. “Our employees really like having flu shots and other preventive services available in our workplace,” she notes. “It’s convenient and has had a favorable impact on employee attendance.”

Walters says that the health assessment information from UVA-WorkMed has guided both planning and actions at Hyosung. “They have provided outstanding service,” she states. “I’m someone who has a background in customer service, so I have high standards. This group is attentive, friendly and wonderful to do business with.”

In addition to Miller, who is an exercise physiologist, and Dr. Rubendall, who is an osteopath and back specialist, the staff at UVA-WorkMed includes registered dietitians, registered and licensed practical nurses, and a rehabilitation engineer. Information about its services can be obtained by calling 434-243-0075 or by visiting

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