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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 23, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

How to Keep Employees Healthy

Good health is everyone’s business. St. Francis Medical

Center in Trenton is on a mission to get that message out to businesses.

With the need for top productivity at an all-time high, every employer

wants an alert, energetic workforce bursting with health. There are

ways to make this happen, and St. Francis stands ready to roll out

a road map.

On Thursday, October 24, at 11:30 a.m. St Francis holds its second

Health/Business Connection luncheon at the Trenton Marriott. Jo

Ann Chalal, medical director of radiation oncology at the Fox Chase

Cancer Center at St. Francis, is the featured speaker. There is no

charge for the event, which includes a networking session and a buffet

lunch in addition to Chalal’s talk. Register by calling 609-599-5659.

The idea for the Health/Business Connection came from cardiac surgeon

Glenn Laub, director of St. Francis’ Heart Center. He had addressed

the Mercer Chamber of Commerce and says he was "shocked at how

interested they were in the nitty gritty of heart surgery, and in

what we are doing here." The hospital itself is a big business, but

Laub says its staff has little opportunity to interact with other

area businesses. "We’re always here working in the hospital,"

the busy surgeon explains. The Health/Business Connection is an attempt

to bring St. Francis into the business loop, and to let companies

know how important they are in promoting their employees’ good health.

The first luncheon, at which Laub spoke, was on heart health. The

topic this time is cancer. The hospital has joined forces with the

Fox Chase Cancer Center, offering close-to-home cancer treatment to

central Jersey residents. In June, it opens the Robert J. Moonan Radiation

Center, which will include a $1.7 million IMRT (Intensity Modulated

Radiation Therapy) linear accelerator.

While the hospital is ramping up its capability to treat cancer patients,

prevention is always the best option, and Judy Persichilli,

St. Francis’ CEO, talks about the vital role employers play in keeping

their workers healthy.

Provide good insurance. Insurance with generous provisions

for preventative screenings is one of the best personnel investments

an employer can make. Allowing time off so that workers can make it

to the screenings is important too.

Serve salad — and low fat dressing . So many employees

remain on-site for lunch at corporate campuses. Get high-fat, high-sodium

items off the menu, and substitute lean protein dishes, salad, and

other heart-healthy choices.

Host screenings . A number of organizations, St. Francis

among them, will set up on-site screenings for blood pressure and

other silent, but deadly, health threats.

Provide space for exercise . If there is room, an on-site

gym is a good idea, providing busy workers with a convenient way to

keep fit. If not, companies might consider doing as St. Francis does,

and offering employees discounts at nearby gyms. Group walks and sports

teams are other options.

Hold down the stress . Employees who understand their jobs,

have control over their tasks, and work in a culture of respect are

less likely to suffer from stress, a condition that is implicated

not only in heart disease but also in cancer as well as everything

from anxiety attacks to diabetes.

Deploy smoke alarms . Persichilli says she can not stress

strongly enough that smokers need to find a way to quit. Employers

who hold smoking cessation programs can help.

So get those nicotine-bound employees out of doorways, shop

for insurance that covers screenings, put in a basketball net in the

parking lot, and stop yelling at your secretary.

Need more advice? Drop in at the Health/Business Connection. A warning,

though. Word is that the Trenton Marriott’s desserts are outstanding.

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