For a microcosm of what's behind Washington's health care
debates, one need look no further than the challenges businesses
face adapting employee wellness practices.
Widely seen as one step to help contain a firm's growing health
care costs, Oklahoma's Certified Healthy Business Program was
started in 2003 to recognize firms providing employee health and
wellness incentives and services. More than 900 firms have received
certification statewide, Tulsa Health Department Wellness
Coordinator Jill Almond said, up from 497 in 2008. She said 66 Tulsa
businesses have received certification, with 16 establishing tobacco-
"If your business is healthy, if people recognize that, it shows
what your focus is," Almond told a Tuesday morning audience at the
Tulsa Metro Chamber's Health Care Forum. "It shows what you believe
A number of companies have taken steps supporting healthier
lifestyles, from providing exercise breaks and fitness center
memberships to encouraging nutritional snacks and meals. However,
Almond said many businesses fall short of enacting actual written
"A lot of elemental pieces are in place," she said. "But policy
is where we really need to hang our hat. We really need to develop
That stumbling block may reflect a number of factors, from
embarrassing employees and forcing them to confront personal
weaknesses to angering those seeking to protect personal freedoms.
"It's such a personal habit that we didn't want to step on
anyone's toes," Plan Benefits Analysts Nutrition and Wellness
Specialist Beth Miller said of adopting a tobacco-free policy.
Tulsa's Inverness Village embraced the healthy business concept.
"We really wanted a wellness culture," Wellness Director Jana
However, the retirement community operator has struggled with
putting some sort of wellness performance measurements into a policy
"We're still kind of fumbling with that," Headrick said.
Cultural habits tend to interfere at Explorer Pipeline and
"We like to eat and we like to celebrate and we like to have that
family culture," said Explorer Compensation and Benefits
Administrator Michelle L. Griffith. "Those are all wonderful
But since that translates into frequent morning doughnuts and
numerous birthday cakes, she said it naturally offsets many
corporate wellness efforts.
"That is an area we struggle with and trying to find that balance
where we can celebrate in other ways," she said. …