WORTHINGTON — After more than three years of growth, the JBS STRONG workplace health initiative has received its own space within the Worthington plant for participants to meet and learn.

The Worthington plant was the first STRONG location, and since its opening in November 2016, it has inspired STRONG programs in 13 other JBS plants, said JBS USA clinical program manager Steve Halterman.

"No other employer really does anything like this," Halterman said.

Employees who have certain health conditions are eligible for the STRONG program, which they also get paid to do. Each participant is given an appointment card before each meeting, and they simply deliver it to their supervisor in order to be released during their shift to attend their session.

Each participant is able to counsel with one of two health coaches and is also part of a peer support group.

"We explore somebody's motivation," Halterman said.

Participants learn how to overcome mental barriers in order to meet their health goals, he explained. With coaching, they curate an individualized program to improve their overall well-being.

JBS STRONG also focuses on stress management and resiliency, including emotion check-ins.

"We encourage them to go deep," Halterman said. "The biggest benefit to JBS and to the community is that people feel better connected."

When they are supported and understood, JBS employees begin to see their work as more than just a job, but like a family, he added.

Health coach America Voss added that families of employees also benefit from the program, because participants often teach their new skills at home.

"It's been just amazing to see the transformation," said Voss, who has been working with JBS STRONG since its outset.

Since 2016, about 250 employees at the Worthington plant have benefited from the STRONG program.

During the program, Voss said, the peer groups become like families.

"They get to know other people's stories and help each other," she said.

Halterman explained that progress is measured by taking several diagnostic health tests at the beginning of the program and then again in a year. After a year, participants "graduate" but are welcome to continue participating and encouraging those who are new.

On average, Worthington employees have experienced these benefits:

  • 9% improvement of blood sugar levels
  • 25% improvement of cholesterol
  • 7% improvement of blood pressure
  • 3% weight loss — a few employees have lost more than 80 pounds

Of those who had been diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome prior to beginning the JBS STRONG program, 65% were able to reverse the diagnosis after a year.

It took some trial and error to get the program as successful as it is today, said program manager Kelly Brown.

"We've gotten it to a well-oiled machine," she said. "The funnest thing was seeing this from its infancy to where it is now."

JBS STRONG is made possible by a partnership with Sanford Worthington. It also received help from public health professional Cecilia Amadou, who applied for a grant for the STRONG ZONE furniture.

The program is offered to employees in both English and Spanish.