When Claudia Denaro, human resources manager at Vantage Aging, filled out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Worksite Health ScoreCard a couple of years ago to assess how the nonprofit was faring in promoting employee health and wellness, the results weren't great.

In fact, the Akron-based agency, which provides services for seniors and delivers meals to shut-ins, scored poorly.

Knowing that having a healthy workforce impacts the cost of benefits, Denaro set about to change that. She wrote an action plan and has launched walking groups, established a weekly yoga class and held a bring-your-dog-to-work day for the nonprofit's 120 employees.

"You have to start somewhere," she said.

The Employers for Health Consortium, a group of Summit County employers and health care organizations, hopes other businesses and nonprofits feel the same way. The group is making a major push this year to have as many local employers as possible fill out the ScoreCard — a free online resource that identifies strengths and weaknesses when it comes to encouraging healthy behaviors.

The ScoreCard is made up of more than 150 questions on topics ranging from tobacco use to high blood pressure to diabetes to nutrition and examines the policies, benefits and support provided by the employer. The responses are kept confidential, although employers can see how they compare with similar-sized operations and use the results to improve conditions at their workplace.

It also allows employers to track their progress year to year. The ScoreCard is available at https://nccd.cdc.gov/DPH_WHSC/HealthScorecard/Home.aspx.

"We're trying to affect the health of our community," said Cory Kendrick, the policy and legislative affairs manager at Summit County Public Health who is helping lead the local effort. "Where do you spend most of the time of your day? You spend it at work. If we can make healthier policies, procedures and programs in people's work environment, then we're going to end up ultimately with a healthier community for everyone.

"From the employer's side of it, there's a lot of evidence that shows that anything you can do to make your employees healthier is going to help your business and your bottom line," he added. "Not only is it the right thing to do, but economically speaking you have less absenteeism, more productivity, lower health care costs."

 

ScoreCard history

The Centers for Disease Control, which didn't respond to a request for comment about the initiative, began offering the ScoreCard in 2012. In 2017, 363 employers from 34 states submitted results to the federal agency.

The Employers for Health Consortium decided to take on the ScoreCard as a countywide initiative. The group is made up of Akron Children's Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Akron General, GOJO Industries, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., OPEN M, Summa Health System, University of Akron and the county health department.

Today, more than 50 local employers covering about 40,000 workers are participating.

But many of them are larger employers. The group wants more companies and nonprofits, especially smaller operations, to take part, because Summit County Public Health can examine aggregate, countywide data.

"We can potentially use that for all sorts of different things," Kendrick said. "For new programming. For grant writing. To look at what we might be lacking, especially for smaller and medium-sized businesses that honestly can't afford some of the different programs that the larger organizations can afford. It will show us where some of the gaps are in the community, as well."

Dr. Brent Pawlecki, the chief health officer at Goodyear, helped spearhead the local initiative. He said Goodyear has responded to the ScoreCard by, for example, improving the food options at its locations around the world, offering $2,000 grants to worksites for programs and outfitting its worksites with blood pressure equipment so workers can check their blood pressure regularly.

Pawlecki and Kendrick noted that the ScoreCard isn't designed to replace existing wellness programs. Instead, it provides ideas for improving the health of the workforce.

The Blick Center in Akron, which provides services for those with developmental, behavioral, physical and mental conditions, used the ScoreCard to develop several new polices. Instead of serving pizza at meetings, the agency has offered fresh fruits and other healthier options. It also has encouraged people to take the stairs instead of the elevator and provided flexible hours for employees who want to ride their bicycles to work, but not during rush hour.

"We’ve promised ourselves to do at least a few things every year," Blick Director of Human Resources Judy Colvin said. "We don’t want our score staying the same. Every year it challenges you to do more."

Colvin and Vantage Aging's Denaro said they appreciate the ScoreCard and the suggestions.

"Everything comes down to eating right, exercising and reducing your stress," Denaro said. "That’s good for mental health. Good for physical health. It’s the answer to diabetes. It’s the answer to heart problems."

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.