Every month, a futuristic-looking machine is wheeled into the Park County courthouse. Soon, employees start taking turns grabbing onto the device’s handles, which sends an electrical current …
Every month, a futuristic-looking machine is wheeled into the Park County courthouse. Soon, employees start taking turns grabbing onto the device’s handles, which sends an electrical current through their hands to their feet. Then, less than a minute later, the machine prints out a body composition analysis, used to help each participant improve their health.
While it might sound like science fiction, it’s actually just science.
The Park County government contracts with a Bozeman, Montana-based firm, Healthy Is Wellness, to provide the machine and individualized health coaching sessions to interested county employees. On May 4, county commissioners unanimously voted to renew their contract with Healthy Is for another year, again at a cost of $14,400.
Commissioner Dossie Overfield credited the program with helping to keep costs down in the county’s self-funded health insurance plan. She said Healthy Is has helped teach employees how to spend more time taking care of themselves, “and I think our insurance numbers reflect that.”
“It’s costing us less in medical claims,” Overfield said.
Healthy Is focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors to keep employees not only well, but at work.
One of the company’s key tools is an InBody 770.
The machine relies on bioelectrical impedance analysis — which involves sending a non-harmful electrical current through a person’s body — to measure total body water. That data is then used to figure out how much fat and muscle the person has, including dangerous visceral fat that wraps around abdominal organs.
The InBody 770 can come up with results in less than 60 seconds — results that are then used by Healthy Is staffers to make an impact.
Using the findings from the InBody device and personal information from employees, Healthy Is works to figure out what behaviors will help employees reach their goals, said founder Nich Pertuit, offering individualized recommendations and clear guidance. Pertuit said he and his staff look at what’s stopping a person from being healthy and focus on the typical obstacles of time, cost and inconvenience. The company provides not only the InBody tests and results, but a mobile app, professional health coaching, monthly challenges and materials to help change unhealthy behaviors.
Between September and March, Healthy Is met with 111 employees and provided 400 coaching sessions. Those employees, Pertuit said, gained 1.4% muscle mass (totaling 100 pounds) while their body fat dropped by 2.2% (200 pounds), lowering the risk of serious disease.
As commissioners mulled whether to renew the contract with Healthy Is, Clerk Colleen Renner said she’s heard positive comments from employees — and she personally vouched for the program.
“I get a lot out of it,” Renner told commissioners, saying the coaching sessions bring up things she normally wouldn’t think about. For instance, one tip pointed out the health benefits of bumping up her treadmill speed by just half-a-level.
“I think it’s well worth our $1,200 a month,” Renner said.
Several other county employees also provided testimonials on behalf of Healthy Is. One called the coaching enlightening, encouraging and helpful and the goal-setting fun; another said following the guidance lowered her blood pressure to the point that she no longer has to take medication — saving both her and the county money.
First Deputy Park County Assessor Terry Call noted that the program would easily pay for itself by preventing just one heart attack or stroke. Referencing the famed adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Call said the program “is a big ounce of prevention!”
The county previously paid up to $200 into the health savings accounts of employees who participated in the Healthy Is program, hoping to incentivize healthy behavior. However, commissioners nixed those payments last year as part of cost-cutting efforts. Pertuit said participation dropped “a little bit on average” when the incentive went away, but Renner said about 63% of the county’s non-law enforcement personnel still take part.
Earlier this month, commissioners had some discussion about whether to renew the Healthy Is contract. While he supported the idea of continuing for another year, Commissioner Lloyd Thiel said it should be reviewed as the county considers overhauling its benefits. He suggested asking employees if they would rather have the services of Healthy Is or “have a $75-a-year raise.”
Commission Chairman Lee Livingston said it’s hard to quantify the impact of a wellness program, but he said the county is giving employees “the opportunity to be a little healthier” through Healthy Is.