Employee health a priority with JBS Strong

WORTHINGTON -- After completing what was deemed a successful pilot program, JBS is investing in its employees' health and assisting them with chronic disease management.

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America Voss (left) and Sheila Ross, JBS Strong health coaches, discuss individualized health plans offered to qualifying JBS employees as part of a new health initiative at the Worthington plant. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - After completing what was deemed a successful pilot program, JBS is investing in its employees’ health and assisting them with chronic disease management.


The JBS Worthington site is one of 12 across the country that has adopted JBS Strong, a one-year, step-by-step health coaching plan uniquely designed to employee participants with three or more chronic health conditions. The meat-packing plant in Worthington adopted the full program in August.


“The primary purpose of JBS Strong is to identify employees that have unmanaged chronic conditions, motivate those employees to manage in self-management, connect those employees with peers and professional support and measure the impact of these efforts,” JBS Strong Health Coach America Voss said.



For one year, approved participants meet on a periodic basis with Voss or Sheila Ross, another JBS Strong health coach, in an effort to identify the underlying problem or problems detrimental to health management and develop a plan that promotes a lifestyle change.


Employee participation in JBS Strong is voluntary, and prospective participants may be referred to the free program after visiting a Sanford Worthington Medical Center health care provider, considered as a higher-potential health risk, scored by an intercompany assessment, or by walk-in.


To qualify for the program, individuals must be JBS employees, receive company-offered health insurance and have at least three chronic health conditions.


Unfortunately, Voss said, it is not difficult for an individual to reach the three chronic health condition minimum, as many conditions are related.



“Cholesterol and blood pressure are almost like best friends - they walk together,” Voss said.


The No. 1 chronic health condition the health coaches help employees manage is diabetes, the health coaches agreed.


“These people are on their feet, sometimes 10 hours a day,” Ross said.


The program has identified a total of 18 chronic health conditions that an employee may have to receive management assistance. Those range from heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, depression and heavy drinking, among others.  



During the first few weeks, new participants go through an orientation program and meet confidentially with their health coach one on one for 30 minutes a week. Health coaching is available in Spanish and English.


The employee’s blood is drawn in order to calculate their A1C, HDL, LDL and other health measurements. The employee’s blood is drawn in 90-day increments to track progress.


“A lot of them know their numbers, but they’ve never been explained what they mean and where they should be at with those numbers,” Ross said. “We help them understand what those numbers mean and what they can do to get them in a normal or acceptable range.”


Once participants have developed a plan, they move to a maintenance stage and begin meeting in a group, where participants share and discuss what has or has not worked so that others can draw ideas from their co-workers’ experiences.


Once the employee successfully completes the six-step program, they may graduate and become a “JBS Strong Champion,” Voss said.


“Our hope is that people that graduate from the program can start sharing, and other people can start seeing their changes - how good they feel, they come to work they’re happier, they don’t have much pain, they have the energy - then they can start coaching other people,” Voss said.


According to Voss, prior to the JBS Strong program, nurses were available on the meat-packing plant site, but there was nothing as comprehensive as the newly instated step-by-step plan.


Bringing the program to the Worthington site was a corporate decision, which was likely made because the plant has been supportive of similar programs, said JBS Humans Resources Director Len Bakken.


“In the long-term (JBS Strong) will be better for our employees, and secondary it will reduce health plan costs,” Bakken said.


A healthier employee should also lead to less absences and decrease in productivity, Ross added.


The health coaches are aiming to have 25 ongoing cases, Voss said.


As of Oct. 9, the duo had 15 active participants and 10 in the maintenance stage of the program with several others in the pipeline.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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