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Aurora Health Care unveils initiative to combat obesity and control health costs

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Contact: Ron Irwin, Public relations manager 414-647-3405

Get Moving Wisconsin offers tools to help employers set up wellness programs

MILWAUKEE, May 29, 2003 — Aurora Health Care today issued a call to action for Wisconsin citizens and employers, introducing an initiative aimed at improving the health of employees and reining in health care costs.

“A direct and powerful way to tackle the health care cost crisis is to address the underlying causes of poor health,” said Paul Hartlaub, M.D., Aurora’s associate medical director for quality improvement. “Sedentary lifestyles and the epidemic of obesity are a significant cause of many diseases today and are driving health costs.”

The new initiative, called Get Moving Wisconsin, provides tools that employers can use to establish wellness programs for their employees. Because even moderate exercise can have a positive impact on health and wellness, Get Moving Wisconsin focuses on the benefits of walking. The initiative will be introduced to employers throughout eastern Wisconsin in June.

Among employers endorsing the effort are the Arthritis Foundation of Wisconsin, the Wellness Council of Wisconsin, the City of Oak Creek and Actuant Corp in Glendale. “At Actuant, we have a fitness facility and a full-time coordinator to help our employees live more active, healthier lives, as well as to help Actuant decrease its medical costs,” said Bob Arzbaecher, president and chief executive officer of Actuant.

Marie Pellett, wellness coordinator for the City of Oak Creek, said: “Our original goal with the wellness program was to reduce health costs, but we saw added benefits. Our employees are having fun and taking responsibility for their own health.” The basic idea of Get Moving Wisconsin is to get employees engaged in moderate daily physical activity in order to reduce or prevent obesity, a leading cause of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and other health problems. Studies show that employees who are physically active generally have increased morale, higher job satisfaction, improved productivity and less stress.

Get Moving Wisconsin is an effort to address the growing problem of obesity among Wisconsin residents. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese.

“People are not getting enough physical activity, and they are getting heavier. Both factors are leading to higher health care costs for employers, individuals and others,” Dr. Hartlaub said. “The good news is that physical activity programs can turn this trend around.”

A review of 32 studies found that corporate wellness programs reduced medical claim costs 28%, physician visits 17%, hospital admissions 63%, disability costs 34% and injuries 25%. Employers can get started with a wellness program by visiting www.Aurora.org/GetMoving. There they will find a comprehensive toolkit that offers details on setting up a physical activity program, along with turnkey models that work and other resources.

On May 1, Aurora Health Care began a walking program called 10K-A-Day, and already more than 12,000 Aurora employees and their family members are participating. The goal of the program is to encourage walking 10,000 steps daily.

Obesity and Get Moving Wisconsin will be the focus of the Aurora First Monday Report to be published the week of June 2 in newspapers throughout eastern Wisconsin. The First Monday Reports are part of Aurora’s Three-Part Commitment to address health costs in Wisconsin. Previous First Monday Reports and more information about the Three-Part Commitment are available at www.AuroraHealthCare.org.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in 75 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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