City, area businesses work to improve ‘quality of life’

PHOTOS PROVIDED Above, from left, are city employees Gary Phillips, Tom Wright and Bill Schweikart, who lost a combined 50 pounds after participating in an eight-week nutrition course taught by registered dietician Rose Trevouledes, standing behind them.

The City of Williamsport is combating rising health care costs by taking steps toward a healthier, happier staff, said Megan Page, human resources director.

In May, a weightloss and wellness class taught by Rose Trevouledes, a registered dietitian, was introduced. The course lasted eight weeks and had a handful of participants.

Trevouledes’ main goal is helping employees learn about nutrition. She focuses on teaching awareness of health and risks, motivating her students rather than “depriving” them, she said.

“I give a plan, education, encouragement — the tools needed,” Trevouledes said. “The employees succeed because they turn it all into a lifestyle and then it is not about deprivation, it’s about improving their health and quality of life.”

At the end of the course, Trevouledes provides a spreadsheet to the employer of tracked data on the employees’ weight loss and other health data — the spreadsheets are kept anonymous for the employees’ privacy, she added.

Though only a few employees participated in Trevouledes’ class, the consensus among them was, “It works.”

“We tried dieting on our own, but we weren’t seeing results,” said Tom Wright, a city employee. “With Rose, we started seeing results within the first week.”

Three of the four participants lost several inches off their waists and one even lost over 30 pounds during the eight-week period. The information was easy to understand and implement, and they didn’t feel as if they were missing anything by giving up “bad” sugars and carbohydrates, they said.

These initiatives started in 2017 with “Lunch and Learns,” held to teach staff about stress management and nutrition.

This past February there was a non-invasive

biometric screening, which looked at each employee’s weight, height, body mass index, blood pressure and waist measurement, and identified risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

The city also joined the YMCA’s corporate partnership and was able to offer its staff a reduced monthly membership.

“Corporate wellness is complex and long term, it is not something we will see quickly,” Page said. “But the city is committed to working with our leadership team, employees and various vendors to consistently evolve our wellness initiatives. We have a variety of short and long-term goals, which will challenge how we think about wellness and what it means to each person.”

Up next, the city hopes to work with Benecon and ConnectCare3 to offer individualized health coaches and educational material for staff, and with its health care provider, Highmark, to provide member discounts and diabetes prevention programs.

“It is a proven fact that health care costs are rising year after year,” she said. “Research has suggested that employers can reduce cost by investing in the health and well-being of their employees and that is exactly what the city is aiming to do.”

“A healthy workforce tends to be more productive and happy,” she added.

Likely for the same reasons, many area businesses are increasing wellness initiatives for their employees. Trevouledes most recently has offered her course to Muncy Bank and Trust, Lycoming Engines, Primus and Thermal Product Solutions in New Columbia.

“So far, with Rose’s guidance, I have lost 36 pounds,” said Shelby Erb, of Thermal Product Solutions. “I consider this just the beginning, as I have several more goals to achieve — including getting off blood pressure medicine.”

“The best part is I know this is something I can maintain for the rest of my life. The amount of sugars I was consuming was eye-opening,” added Erb’s coworker, Amanda Fetterolf, who has lost nearly 40 pounds.

Depending on the business, Trevouledes’ courses sometimes mixed yoga in with the nutrition education.

“She showed us items from the grocery store, gave us recipes for each meal of the day and participated in the yoga class with us,” said Kathy Stauffer, an employee at Muncy Bank who has lost 22 pounds. “She also emphasized the importance of moving — exercise, walk, run … just keep moving. I now have the tools I need to make smart food decisions thanks to Rose’s program.

With Trevouledes’ success and rave staff reviews, Page hopes to partner with her again for another eight-week course in the fall.

Implementing health initiatives has been a priority since she joined the city in February of 2017, inspired by ideas from several departments, Page said.

Staff participation is low to start, but Page is hopeful that will change soon enough.

“Changing how people view or even think about wellness is not easy. It requires behavior changes, which are ultimately up to each individual,” she said. “This type of change is a learning process and requires time and patience. Our employee participation rates for wellness programs are low but with time and employee testimonies I am confident we will see an increase in participation.”

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