MUSC News Center
More than 30 companies join Healthy Business Challenge
Helen Adams | MUSC News Center | March 10, 2015
|Chef Jordan Marhoefer prepares a healthy lunch for employees at SIB, a business consulting firm participating in the Charleston Healthy Business Challenge.|
For some people, nothing is as motivating as a little competition. Knowing someone is just ahead of you or right behind you can make you work a little harder to get or stay ahead.
That’s the idea behind the Charleston Healthy Business Challenge. The Medical University of South Carolina teamed up with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley to invite Lowcountry companies to join a year-long contest aimed at improving the health and well-being of employees while reducing the cost of preventable illness and creating a culture of wellness in the workplace.
More than 30 organizations have signed up since the January kickoff, including Charleston city and county government offices, Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Mount Pleasant Waterworks, SCANA, the South Carolina Credit Union and SIB Development and Consulting.
Susan Johnson, director of MUSC’s Office of Health Promotion, said the idea behind the challenge is simple. “You change things where people work, so it makes the healthier choice the easy choice and makes it harder for them to continue unhealthy behavior.”
She’s seen it work at MUSC, which has increased exercise options for employees, started offering healthier food and drink options and banned smoking on campus. The state hospital association awarded MUSC the Working Well Excellence Award for its efforts.
“It was always our intention that once we figured out how to do it with our employees, we wanted to become a resource for the community,” Johnson said.
The challenge will grade Lowcountry businesses based on their scores at the end of 2015. It focuses on four pillars:
Johnson joined Riley, presenting sponsors Arthur J. Gallagher & Company and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and other sponsors at the campaign kickoff.
Riley, a trim, energetic 71-year-old, is known for his focus on fitness in the Lowcountry. “We’ve worked hard in Charleston to be a leader in our country in everything we do,” Riley said. “When you (join the challenge), you not only help people lose weight. You’re extending lives. You’re going to give a grandchild a grandparent they might not have had.”
Research shows that increased physical activity can extend your life expectancy by almost five years, while being extremely overweight can shorten your life by more than a decade.
Riley also said the workplace is a smart spot to target for health improvement since so much time is spent there. The U.S. Labor Department estimates the average person spends more than eight and a half hours a day working.
“We challenge for-profit businesses and non-profits to join this wonderful program,” Riley said.
Participation in the challenge is free and open to all businesses in the tri-county area. (To see a listing of participating businesses, click here.) Organizers plan for this to be a competitive event for years to come.
To sign up, go to CHBChallenge.com. Businesses will have access to:
• A toolkit to help them create a culture of wellness
• A Healthy Business Challenge scorecard
• A calendar of the quarterly seminars hosted by the MUSC Office of Health Promotion and Lighten Up Charleston focusing on the four pillars (exercise, nutrition, tobacco cessation and stress management).
Upcoming seminars include a May 13 discussion about physically active workplaces and an August 25 lecture on stress management. Both will run from 8:30 to 10 in the morning in the Bioengineering Building at MUSC.
Johnson said a similar program in Nashville, Tennessee, a model for this contest, has been a big success. A list of recent winners there shows the caliber of businesses involved: a university, financial and consulting firms, a media company and a large non-profit operation.
Johnson hopes to take the campaign statewide in South Carolina.
“I think we’re really on to something,” Johnson said. “This is about changing people’s behaviors. We’ve created a healthier place at MUSC. Now we want to create healthier workplaces across the Lowcountry.”
She called the new campaign exciting. “We are changing the norm of the workplace environment to one that supports a culture of wellness as the new standard operating procedure.”