Physical Fitness and Productivity

Article excerpt

Good health is clearly related to productivity in the work place, insists an Oklahoma City corporate activist.

Trouble is, says Jan Welter-Mullen, manager of health promotion programs at Southwestern Bell Telephone, business is looking at a revolution that all too many executives are unwilling to face.

Speaking as one who has seen 11,435 employees and family members, including repeaters, engage in her company's fitness programs, Welter-Mullen not only has become an advocate, but warns of the likelihood of self-inflicted wounds for those who ignore the link between health and profit margins.

"Recent court rulings in New Mexico and California have upheld workmen's compensation awards for stress," she said. "And the court of appeals in New Mexico awarded damages for schizophrenia.

"We're looking at a revolution here that no one wants to face; the lawsuits are coming."

Southwestern Bell's quest for improved employee health was begun in 1986 with an agreement for services provided by the Oklahoma Center for Athletes, a component of HCA Presbyterian Hospital. Although other local firms offer similar plans to employees, there is little evidence that an emphasis on fitness has taken hold in corporate suites here.

Carlene Brown, director of development at Baptist Medical Center's Pacer Fitness Center, reports a total of 17 corporate memberships at her facility. The Center for Athletes now works with 10 companies.

Pacer's approach differs from the program in place at Southwestern Bell in its system of corporate memberships. Companies buy a minimum of 25 memberships which offer employees a fitness evaluation, along with exercise facilities and health screening.

As with Southwestern Bell, however, Pacer sends lecturers out and disseminates information not only on exercise and cardiovascular performance, but advice on dealing with stress and nutritious eating as well.

If companies aren't taking advantage of the opportunities, the state of the economy may be a factor. Observes Brown:

"In the last several years, businesses in Oklahoma aren't doing a lot, possibly as a result of too many financial crises related to the economy."

Pacer lays claim to the mantle of first of its kind in Oklahoma. It's now in its tenth year.

St. Anthony Hospital, which puts it SCORE program into effect in 1984 and 1985, has had agreements with more than 50 companies to design individualized health regimens for employees. SCORE is an acronym for Specialized Center of Rejuvenation and Exercise.

Following a comprehensive medical examination, participants consult with staff professionals, including an exercise physiologist and nutritionist, and are given a "personalized exercise and nutrition prescription," explains St. Anthony's Jane Politte.

The length of a SCORE program depends on the enrollee's health status and specialized needs. …