With all the blather about healthcare going on across the country, it’s nice to receive a little story that proves there’s still some sanity out there regarding the subject.

The story comes from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and its incentive workplace wellness program with Graniterock, the Watsonville-based construction materials and services company.

When Henry Thai, M.D., an internal medicine doctor at PAMF’s Palo Alto Center, first met Bruce Woolpert, CEO of Graniterock, Woolpert was overweight and faced hypertension. By working with Dr. Thai and making small adjustments to his diet and lifestyle, Woolpert lost 40 lbs and normalized his blood pressure. Woolpert was so inspired that he wanted all of his employees to have access to the same care.

“For companies like Graniterock, investing in preventive medicine, such as a weight loss and exercise program, is both socially responsible and important in reducing health care and workers compensation costs,” says Dr. Thai.

To replicate Woolpert’s experience, PAMF launched the “(Healthy)me: Healthy to the Power of Me” employee wellness program. Dr. Thai created an educational booklet for Graniterock about weight management, exercise and a healthy diet. He also recruited doctors from the PAMF network, including local Santa Cruz doctors, to provide on-site care at Graniterock locations in the Bay Area. The pilot program began in June 2008 and ran for six months. Due to the great success of the program, Graniterock committed to extending the program in 2009.

Graniterock team members who signed up for the program were screened for health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The doctors reviewed their results and helped them set personal goals, such as fitting into a favorite pair of jeans.

Participants then worked with their doctors to develop individual lifestyle modifications to help reach these goals. At follow-up visits, team members were offered additional tips to either continue their progress or get back on track.

“A lot of diet plans are too complicated to be effective,” Dr. Thai says. “Instead, we concentrated on a small number of simple changes, such as having frequent snacks in between meals to avoid the temptation to overeat and at the same time increase the basal metabolic rate.”

As a result, Graniterock team members lost a total of more than 1,300 lbs, their cholesterol and blood pressure levels improved and workplace injuries decreased. 

“The program was great and I’m really glad I joined,” says Kyle McLean, project engineer at the Pavex San Jose office. “I have had challenges with staying up on my exercise, but the PAMF team’s encouragement to get in a routine and eat healthy will not be forgotten.”

Because the (Healthy)me program began with screenings and consultations, employees were involved and informed from the onset, says Diana Villegas, who works in the accounting services department at the Graniterock corporate office in Watsonville. “The explanation of my screening results was understandable and I appreciate all of the encouragement provided,” she says.

Graniterock saw high-risk levels drop: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) reduced by 10%, triglyceride reduced by 5%, and cholesterol/HDL by 5%.  Furthermore, recommended glucose levels were increased by 6%, diabetic levels of glucose were reduced by 4%, and body fat percentage levels in obese males were reduced by 10%.