Too little attention is generally given to the preservation of health. ‘Health’ usually comes into picture when someone takes a medical leave; someone gets detected with some health issue or when a premium of the insurance policy is due!
With more and more people imitating Western culture (sedentary lifestyle and fast food culture); lifestyle diseases are creeping in rapidly but silently! Spreading awareness about healthy lifestyle and thinking more about ‘prevention’ than ‘treatment’ is the need of time.
With this concept, we decided to conduct a year-long lifestyle awareness and education program in Pune where our well-equipped wellness centers are located. We focused our attention on ‘young employees’ of information technology (IT) sector as the IT sector is growing exponentially and the IT employees are exposed to adverse lifestyle which comes as a part and parcel of their work culture – erratic eating, inactivity, high-stress levels and so on. We coined an acronym ‘LIMIT’ (Lifestyle Modification in IT) for the program.
To launch the program, we approached several IT companies in Pune. Everyone appreciated the concept but when it came to the 1-year commitment, everyone simply refused! The management thought that their employees were too young for such health interventions and spending on ‘healthy’ employees was not affordable!!
Disappointed with this situation, we started figuring out the ways to convince people. We started looking for some solid evidence to support our hypothesis of ‘lifestyle risk factor clustering in IT employees’. We decided to dig out the available medical database and pre-employment checkup reports of the employees working in the IT sector. We obtained health records of ~1500 IT employees from 2 IT industries where annual health checkups were routinely conducted. These records were obtained anonymously (without revealing the names of the participants) to maintain privacy.
As the management presumed, diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure were quite uncommon in these employees. But when we analyzed the data further, we were shocked to know that 2 in every 3 employees had risk factors for these conditions (overweight, obesity, abnormal cholesterol). With these statistics in hand, we re-approached a few IT industries and finally, 2 of them agreed to take part in this initiative.
We had to struggle for enrollment too. Initially, we designed flyers, posters, and standees to invite registrations; but the response was lukewarm. So-called ‘disease-free’ employees were reluctant to join even at a nominal fee of INR500 for a year! The picture was reversed when we approached face to face. We chased the employees in parking lots, canteen and kiosks and had ~500 members within a few days including the directors!
FINALLY, WE LAUNCHED THE PROGRAM!
The program started with health checkups at worksite and health risk assessment. Below is the theme of the program.
Based on the results, we categorized the participants into 3 groups – ‘low risk’, ‘high risk’ and ‘very high risk’. We then arranged group-wise counseling sessions focusing on the principles of lifestyle improvement. The advice covered important points like what to eat, what not to eat, how to get adequate rest, simple exercises to be performed daily, easy techniques for stress management, etc. The sessions were interactive; the participants were given a chance to ask their queries and doubts. These sessions were conducted by our expert doctors, dieticians, and physical fitness trainers.
After the counseling sessions, we took advantage of the wireless communication methods (mobile phone messages – SMS and emails) to stay in touch with the participants. We educated the participants further, motivated them to follow the advice and reminded them of their health commitments through regular mobile messages (3 per week) and emails (2 per week). The e-mails contained infographics (information + image) which were interesting and easy to grasp. Below are some examples-
We also created a Facebook page for the participants (see below)
Being IT employees, all were technology-friendly and this mode of communication was accepted quite well. We interacted with the participants for 1 year in this fashion. During this year, we conducted a total of 3 short follow-up visits (every 3 monthly) to assess the progress of the participants. After 1 year, all tests were repeated, same like the health checkups in the beginning (see some captured moments below)
We built a great team and meticulously planned our activities. We kept ‘plan B’ ready in all critical areas. Our back office was the backbone of the project! We all acquired expertise in counseling, anthropometry, data management and designing emails, messages, and reminders.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER 1 YEAR
The results were encouraging! After 1 year, the proportion of overweight-obese participants decreased by almost 10%. We also observed improvements in waist size, fat percentage, and blood cholesterol levels. The awareness levels (which we assessed through a questionnaire) improved to a great extent. Most of the participants were quite happy about the positive energy they felt. After the successful completion of one year, the project ended with a memorable concluding session including experience sharing and felicitation. Almost all (98%) participants stated that they would like this program to be continued and family members should also be involved!!
WHAT PARTICIPANTS EXPERIENCED
Here are some testimonials from the participants-
- This is a very encouraging, motivational & systematic approach to achieve better health. I have reduced intake of tea, chocolates, cake & sweets during this program which has helped me lose weight. I have also started regular exercise. (Mr. Chandrakant)
- It’s a good incentive to be aware of health benefits & monitor health parameters. Regular emails & SMS tips are good reminders. (Mrs. Vidyut)
- LIMIT Your Risk – the health promotional program started in our company is very useful. We are now more alert & conscious about our health which in turn has benefited our family! (Mr. Chintamani)
- It is very encouraging. To describe it, this program is a helpline for what to do & what not to do regarding health with periodical measures. (Mr. Punit)
- Thanks for all! Because of this preventive program, I got aware before anything worst happens. I started taking care of my health at the right time. (Mr. Shashank)
With this positiveness, we recently launched a 1-year continuation of this program in one of the participating IT industry! This corporate program was a great way of bringing the staff together in a positive learning environment for promoting health. The use of mobile phone messages and e-mails made this program cost-effective!
By intervening early and preventing health problems, employees can be healthier, happier and more productive. Their job satisfaction can be enhanced by reducing medical costs and by improving health facilities offered to them. We believe that such programs will also improve the prospects for employers in terms of better productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved industrial output, and growth!
We are planning to extend this initiative to other small and large corporate setups in and around Pune. We are also equipped to extend these services at PAN India level. We dream to make the workplaces happy, healthy and full of positive energy.
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