At General Mills, the global food manufacturer, promoting health is not only part of its corporate culture, but also reflective of its marketing strategy for products such as whole-grain cereals, yogurt, granola bars and vegetables.
Its health and wellness programs include on-site and local clinics that emphasize prevention, with a variety of medical services and behavioral counseling to promote healthier eating habits. It also offers employees an educational and motivational Web site, with a direct link to a medical information site co-branded by the Mayo Clinic and General Mills.
To further employee engagement, the company designed fun programs to promote healthy behaviors--in particular diet and exercise.
"We promote small changes. We don't use the word 'diet,' because it's short-lived. We want lifestyle changes," explains Dr. Julia Halberg, director of health services for General Mills.
For example, the company sponsored a "lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks" program for employees with a body mass index higher than 25. It resulted in 3,000 pounds lost collectively in the first 10 weeks. Another program encouraged employees to walk more by using pedometers and recording how many steps they took each day.
It even brought an element of healthy competition into the picture. Employees were encouraged to participate in an anonymous and voluntary health assessment to determine their "health number" from 0 to 100, based on such things as nutrition, exercise, BMI, stress level, blood pressure, fasting lipids and glucose, and even risky behaviors such as driving without a seat belt and smoking. Based on this cumulative health number, employees could see where they stood compared to their peers, and employees at one plant could gauge themselves against other General Mills facilities.
The purpose, Halberg says, was to motivate employees with a bit of friendly competition and an emphasis on healthy behaviors.
March 1, 2006
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