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Wegmans THE smaller imageDanny Wegman is mad about obesity.

In an interview with Supermarket News, Wegman said the right measurements must be in place to win the war on fat. Specifically, who is measuring and tracking people’s health? Wegman said there are a lot of programs, but no one knows if they’re working.

Wegmans is monitoring its own 44,000 workers. Wegmans stopped selling tobacco products and offers employees a variety of food and exercise programs. It’s using specific measurements to track success. Supermarket News reports:

So what’s been the impact of all this? Danny noted that in measuring results, Wegmans focuses on high blood pressure over weight, because it’s a less charged topic, and the necessary lifestyle changes have a beneficial impact on weight as well. The retailer began measuring results in 2008, and most recently reported that the percentage of its employees with high blood pressure has dropped from 24% in 2008 to about 14% today.

Meanwhile, even though Wegmans hasn’t specifically focused on weight, it does track body mass index, and found the percentage of its employees with healthy weights rose from 29% to 40% in the same period, and those considered obese dropped from 32% to 25%.


So what is Danny urging? “As individual companies we should be measuring these things,” he said. “Communities should be measuring these things. Then we’d begin to see how we can make a difference.”

His recommendation is that companies focus on five standard measures: blood pressure, body mass index, sugar, cholesterol and smoking versus nonsmoking.

How would you feel if your company, which may subsidize your health insurance, measure you? While this raises privacy questions, it’s possible there could be an opt-out provision.

Links of the Day:

– Governor Cuomo is floating the idea of a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls. The move could get the Senecas to pay money they’re withholding from the state. The tribe believes video slots at racetracks violates its gaming compact.

– The University of Rochester has an old swimming pool that’s now filled with chairs and desks. Check out these eerie photos.

The Albany Times Union contrasts two very different neighborhoods and points out more of America is divided by class.

– Health care aides are awaiting a decision on whether they can get minimum wage and overtime.

– The New York Times profiled the case of a young man who killed himself after a long addiction to ADHD medication. It’s a sad, infuriating read.

6 Responses to Employers Tracking Your Health

  1. The potential for abuse is awesome. But Danny Wegman strikes me as “a big picture guy,” with a lot of bluster. Like you say, privacy is a concern. But HIPPA law being what it is, this is a concern that is a non-starter right out of the gate. He just can’t really do what he says he wants to in any way that would violate his employees’ rights.

    Having said that, our nation taking diabetes and other fast food culture problems more seriously is a good idea. So far, the Wegmans way has been largely positive reinforcement, as it should be. Employers and health insurance companies could do well to follow that example.

  2. Employee health monitoring is not uncommon, particularly with employers that are self-insured such as Wegmans. There is a significant financial risk associated with covering unhealthy employee populations, so managing that risk is imperative for a successful health plan.

    Also, DragonFlyEye, you should know that HIPAA treats employer-collected medical history as part of the employee record, so as long as vitals are collected by the employer, there is no federal law that prohibits monitoring of that health information (as long as the employer offers the employee an option to opt-out.) If the employee’s own physician collects the information, then there are some privacy barriers. In this situation, the employee is generally incentivized to participate in the employee wellness program, and signing a HIPAA consent form is required. Again, this would be at the employee’s discretion. (The laws do vary from state to state, here’s an example for CA: https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fsC5/CA-medical-employment-privacy)

    It’s also important to note that some employers choose to only receive aggregate reports on their population.. so they’ll only see trends, for example: “X% of employees ceased smoking in the past 12 months.” (I don’t know if Wegmans monitors employee health on the individual level or in aggregate.)

    Here’s an additional resource: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/20/health-monitoring-raises-privacy-concerns

  3. February 4, 2013 at 9:58 am Matthew McDermott responds:

    I don’t have any specific knowledge about how this program works at Wegmans, but often times Health Risk Assessment programs are put in place with an incentive structure. Employees aren’t required to participate, but if they do they receive lower health insurance premiums, deductibles or other ‘carrots’ like raffle prizes (iPad anyone?) to participate.

    From the company perspective it allows them to focus resources on activities that actually make their workforce healthier and avoid catastrophic health events (at least those that are largely lifestyle driven) as opposed to feel good initiatives that may sound nice but not have any impact.

    From the employee perspective, I agree that someone that doesn’t want to participate should always have the option to opt out but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing when your company swaps out low quality, fatty foods for healthier options in the company cafeteria or vending machines. If you still want to go to Taco Bell for lunch or have a Snickers Bar in the afternoon, that’s still your option. It’s just that the healthier route becomes easier/less expensive for the average employee.

  4. FYI…the company I worked for, since retired, for years had a program that credited you $500 towards your health insurance by providing your biometric numbers each year. They would provide counciling if needed for unhealthy behaviors. If you didn’t want to participate, it would cost you $500. I thought it was fine. I didn’t mind knowing my cholesterol and blood pressure readings. I also didn’t mind knowing if I was healthy. Wegmans seems to be doing the same. I think that’s great.

  5. I work for Wegmans and the Health Screenings are not mandatory. Just a wonderful option. We also have the most knowledgeable Pharmacists who will follow up with you on your Blood Pressure if it is an issue. And we have top notch nutriotionists that will also provide counsel regarding healthy eating. Wegmans does encourage employees to Eat Will and Live Well.

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