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FLINT, Mich. – Who says a great benefits offering has to cost big bucks? Security Federal Credit Union has set its employees on the road to good health and they’ve never looked or felt better. “While it is hard to qualify if this directly affects health insurance costs, employees keep asking for it year after year and you can really see the improvement in employees, ” said SFCU Senior Vice President of HR Val Cooper. “ The value in these sessions is that employees are equipped with the necessary information to maintain or move toward a better, healthier way of life and I think that helps maintain a positive work environment.” Although the $235 million credit union has promoted health through seminars for the past six years by partnering with the McLaren Regional Medical Center, a formal weight reduction program was introduced last February. To ensure the program catered to employees’ needs, each staffer filled out survey forms. The survey found that some 53% were interested in cholesterol, body fat, glucose, blood pressure and osteoporosis workplace health screenings, and another 49% were looking for help with stress management and weight loss. In addition, one out of three workers never exercised and only 24% did the recommended 30 minutes of exercise. Some 15 employees signed up and chipped in $1 each, which Cooper says served more as a program commitment reinforcement tool. Each week participants’ lunch hours would transform into health education sessions, which includes weigh-ins and presentations from McLaren Wellness Program experts on topics ranging from healthy eating and stress management to exercising. In addition, during each session Security FCU would have plenty of healthful foods on hand such as salads, fruits, vegetables and bottled water. “The dietician was very `nuts and bolts’ and it made it very easy to make healthy choices while answering our questions about everything from portions to the challenges of fast food,” said Security FCU Vice President Finance Linda Hess, who lost 14 pounds. “We all lead such busy lives that I for one really appreciate having a program here because if I didn’t do it at work I know I wouldn’t take extra time after work.” Hess isn’t the only success story. According to Cooper, another staffer who’d been struggling with high cholesterol managed to drop her cholesterol level by 50 points. “She said she didn’t want to be on medication for it and she not only changed her eating habits but also started walking,” said Cooper. “So when you hear successes like that you know you’re doing some good and making a real difference in people’s lives for less than $1,000 a year. It is also a great way to have fun with the people you work with and the friendly competition makes you think twice about that vending machine selection.” Employees will be surveyed again in October to gauge effectiveness and help keep the program fresh. One unexpected but welcome benefit of the program has been the publicity generated by local media exposure. In addition to local news station interviews and being featured in the Flint Journal the credit union has been swamped with calls from local businesses in the wellness/fitness industry interested in partnering with Security FCU for everything from discounted recreation center passes to speaking engagements. For credit unions considering offering similar programs, Cooper says employee involvement is key to developing the right program mix and that it also helps to have department heads be program participants. [email protected]

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