Perdue Farms honored for worksite wellness

Published 10:10 am Monday, August 15, 2016

SALISBURY, MD – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Healthiest Maryland Businesses initiative has presented Perdue Farms a Gold Wellness at Work Award for achievements in improving associates’ health through the company’s innovative Health Improvement Program (HIP).

Van Mitchell, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, presented the award at the recent annual Maryland Workplace Health and Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights.

“We are thrilled to receive recognition for our efforts and commitment to providing ongoing wellness programs to our associates,” said Dawn Carey, director of Perdue’s health and wellness programs. “The true success of this accomplishment is the associates, their engagement, motivation and unwavering commitment to make behavior modifications and take actionable steps to improve their health and well-being. By helping to make the associates aware of their health profile, we can support them in making positive changes in their lives that will not only affect them, but their families and the communities in which they live.”

Perdue’s Health Improvement Program (HIP), established in 2008, encourages associates to participate in a voluntary health screening and healthy activities by working with the company’s on-site health care professionals. HIP is a preventative program designed to improve associates’ health and wellness by focusing on manageable health risks, including smoking, weight, diabetes, and blood pressure.

The Wellness at Work Awards is sponsored by Healthiest Maryland Businesses, the state’s initiative to support healthy workplaces. Employers may earn a Gold, Silver, Bronze or On the Path award. To be eligible for an award, businesses are required to establish leadership support for wellness, create wellness committees, survey the needs and interests of their employees, set health improvement goals, and develop monitoring tools to track outcomes over time.

“For us at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, ‘Wellness at Work’ constitutes a Winnable Battle, a means of promoting healthy choices and activity where most Marylanders spend a large part of their week — their job,” said Mitchell. “This promotion is an opportunity to recognize the work of employers to foster environments that make it easier for Marylanders to make those choices that we know can prevent the onset of such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”

This year, Perdue accepted the Gold Award after presenting data from at least two years of demonstrated improvement in three specific health areas: physical activity/weight, hypertension, and diabetes. HIP data from January of 2014 to 2016 showed a 9 percent decrease in weight, 60 percent of hypertensive associates lowered their blood pressure, and about 44 percent of pre-diabetic and diabetic associates decreased A1C sugar levels.

Enrollment in HIP has increased about 85 percent since the first year and continues to make an impact on so many Perdue associates’ lives, explains Cheryl Stafford, the corporate health strategies manager.

“The HIP program is a tremendous benefit to the associates because most chronic conditions do not have any signs or symptoms but are preventable with lifestyle modifications. Prevention and early intervention is imperative to living a long and healthy life,” she said.

Alongside HIP, Perdue offers on-site health care to its associates through their 19 Wellness Centers at its major locations. By pairing with local doctors and other healthcare providers, Perdue associates can receive free preventive screenings as well as schedule medical appointments during regular work hours while still getting paid. If continued medical care is needed, Wellness Centers provide support for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma, as well as immediate care for infections, bronchitis, injuries and other medical conditions. Women’s health, podiatry and pediatrics are also offered at the Wellness Centers.

Perdue is one of only a few businesses in the country to offer associates and their dependents access to low-cost primary care through the fully equipped Wellness Centers staffed by health care professionals from the local community.

“It may seem unusual for a food and agriculture company to be in the health business, but we believe we’re in the people business first,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “My Dad (Frank Perdue) always said, ‘if you take care of your people first, they will take care of the business.’ Our Wellness Centers and Health Improvement Program builds upon our company’s people-first philosophy.”