Millard Henry Clinic has a lot to lose. And they’re looking forward to it. Millard Henry has joined River Valley Weigh of Life in a move to “better communicate healthy living to our patients,” according to Angie Newton, administrative secretary. Newton and Gayle Caldwell, Medicaid clerk, have been key in implementing the program at the clinic. River Valley Weigh of Life is a community weight loss and fitness challenge that offers different levels of participation to individuals and businesses. Millard Henry has joined at the highest level, Track 4. On Track 4, Millard Henry has paid for employees to have access to the following perks: a resource guide, access to MyDiet via www.saintmarysregional.com, a seven-day pass to Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center and two screenings.

The first set of screenings were completed Friday, and 46 of the more than 170 employees had their blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index measured. In six months, the employees will have the same screenings again so that they may monitor their improvements. Newton and Caldwell began gathering information about River Valley Weigh of Life in January, presented it to top management and, after receiving approval, set a start date of March 1. Though the program offers guidelines for measurements and local resources, businesses are encouraged to take the program and adapt it to their workplace environments. In the case of Millard Henry, Newton and Caldwell decided to involve the clinic’s Five Star teams. Five Star teams are employee teams familiar to both Millard Henry and Saint Mary’s Regional Health System. Teams focus on customer satisfaction; and “customers” include patients and coworkers. Newton and Caldwell presented River Valley Weigh of Life at a Five Star Steering Committee meeting and challenged each team to pick a project that would help implement Weigh of Life at the clinic. Three of the seven teams have already started projects.

One team is conducting a Millard Henry’s Biggest Loser competition, complete with monthly weigh-ins and prizes. Another has recently displayed a walking guide on a dedicated board in the break room. Caldwell said that employees are starting to bring tennis shoes to work, and the outdoor ?-mile and one-mile trails are meant to encourage walks during breaks and lunch. And a third team has scheduled monthly lunchand- learns. Employees bring a lunch and listen to experts on topics including exercise, motivation and stress reduction. The first lunch-and-learn was Monday, and Lindsey Hale Mackey, a registered dietitian with Saint Mary’s and instructor of River Valley Simply Fit for Life classes, spoke on nutrition. Mackey began by explaining that one pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories; therefore, to lose one pound a week, one should cut about 500 calories a day with diet and exercise. She also addressed fad diets, including low-fat models and low-carb diets. One healthy diet Mackey recommends is the American Heart Association diet, and she doesn’t advise fad diets, as they usually limit exposure to essential nutrients and can be dangerous. Paula West, an insurance clerk at Millard Henry, sat in on the seminar Monday. West attended because she’s “interested in all aspects of health and fitness.” She is happy to see her employer addressing healthy living issues in a group atmosphere and says, “It’s easier in a group.” West has been walking twice a day during breaks for some time now. She grabs her tennis shoes and sunglasses and makes figure eights between the two clinic buildings. Recently, a co-worker decided to join her, and, “we do whatever we can do in 15 minutes. I have more energy and feel better – just to get up and move.”

Monday’s meeting was a “wonderful first meeting,” according to Caldwell. She is hoping a Five Star team will take on publicity soon. Currently employees are fed information about the program through an internal newsletter, a bulletin board in the break room and signs at time clocks. These measures seem to be working, as a good mix of administrative and medical employees have signed up. Information on the billboard includes blurbs about the incredibly popular Women Can Run clinic held Mondays and Thursdays. Newton, Caldwell and seven other clinic employees have joined. And, already, a milestone: Newton recently ran a straight four minutes, something other program runners aren’t slated to attempt until next week. Other businesses that have signed on to River Valley Weigh of Life include Innovation Industries, Tyson – Tyler Road, The Courier and the Russellville Chamber of Commerce. According to recent university studies, businesses who invest in wellness programs for employees typically see a $3 return for every $1 spent. For more information about River Valley Weigh of Life call 479-964-5333 or for the Simply Fit for Life nutrition program call 479-964-5495.