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From left, Alyson Ankrom, Michael Calhoun and Morgan Simpson
Rebecca Green | SBJ
From left, Alyson Ankrom, Michael Calhoun and Morgan Simpson

2022 Health Care Champions Company Wellness Program of the Year: Citizens Memorial Hospital

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Citizens Memorial Hospital was established in 1982 in a rural community that officials say desperately needed health care services.

“It was founded because concerned citizens of the community came together and formed a committee looking into starting a hospital,” says Alyson Ankrom, coordinator for the hospital’s wellness program.

The name reflects the history of a health care entity that has grown to encompass the public, not-for-profit hospital and its foundation, plus 32 primary and specialty physician clinics, seven long-term care facilities and other ancillary services.

The staff wellness program was founded in 2000 – back when health assessments were still done with pencil and paper, Ankrom says.

“The program has evolved over the years, along with the technology,” she says.

When Ankrom became coordinator in 2021, she says there were 1,051 participants, which was a 49.8% employee participation rate. Today, 1,296 employees participate, accounting for 60% of the worker population.

Ankrom attributes the high participation rate to three key moves by hospital leadership: They have a dedicated wellness staff and wellness committees; they provide programs employees want; and they offer generous quarterly insurance discount incentives, as well as other perks for participation.

“Working somewhere where you know the employees’ well-being is truly valued is empowering and important to a life well lived,” Ankrom says.

CMH’s wellness program covers a variety of activities employees can participate in to earn points toward the insurance discount. There are also gift card drawings for making progress toward goals, such as physical activity, healthy habits, stress management, weight loss, preventive care and screenings.

“We encourage and reward our participants to go for their annual wellness visits with their primary care physicians … and reward preventative care screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies,” Ankrom says, noting vision and dental visits also are rewarded.

Ankrom says one very popular offering is virtual team step challenges, where co-workers set their own teams and compete with one another across routes. Currently, workers are racing virtually through all CMH locations, starting with its newest clinic in Willard but winding through other communities before finishing in the original Bolivar site.

“We are trying to catch up with team maintenance – they are always in first place,” Ankrom says.

There are also opportunities to gather in person for wellness activities, Ankrom says. An example is Wellness Wednesday “meet and eats,” which are scheduled for 2023 and will cover various topics. The first wellness club has just begun as well, and it focuses on tabletop gaming, at the suggestion of an employee.

The program is in the process of adding in-person coaching with CMH’s sports medicine-licensed athletic trainers.

“Since we are a health care facility, we also have the ability to refer to dieticians, mental health clinicians or other providers as needed,” Ankrom says.

Ankrom says the success of the program is readily apparent by various metrics, but observing the changes in employees’ lives is the most meaningful one.

“I’m thankful our leadership has always seen the value of a comprehensive wellness program and realizes that employees are our organization’s most valuable asset and hasn’t required us to extrapolate data down to the dollar,” she says.

It is possible to estimate health care savings from quitting smoking or shedding pounds, as well as reducing absenteeism. But the value goes beyond dollars, Ankrom says.

“The actual impact it makes to their life?” she says. “That’s immeasurable.”

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