Cumberland Times-News

May 13, 2012

Workplace wellness programs can lead to decrease in sick days taken by employees

PharmaCare Network uses Merit the Carrot mascot as way to boost participation among its workers

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— FROSTBURG — Workplace wellness programs are invaluable for companies to have, according to Lisa Bohrer, community health and wellness manager at PharmaCare Network.

“It enriches the workplace and makes people feel valued as employees,” said Bohrer, who noted that a program can also help reduce the number of sick days.

 An estimated 25 to 30 percent of companies’ medical costs per year are spent in employees with excess health risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 60 percent of employers’ after-tax profits are spent on corporate health benefits.

Not only does a wellness program improve employees’ physical condition but also improves mental alertness, according to Bohrer. PharmaCare started a wellness program about five years ago.

The company recently added a mascot — Merit the Carrot — to provide incentives for employees to participate in the program. Each time an employee completes a wellness event, he earns a paper carrot that gets put into a drawing for a prize. The carrots collection begins in January and runs through December.

 “The employees are crazy about it (the carrots). Since we have had Merit the Carrot, participation in the program has increased by 50 percent,” said Bohrer.

Two of the biggest health-related events that PharmaCare employees participate in are walking programs and monthly blood pressure screenings, according to Bohrer. PharmaCare hosts themed walking events. This year’s theme is Marching to Mexico, and last year’s was Hopping to Honolulu.

Marching to Mexico provides employees with walking logs and pedometers and their miles will be added up and tracked on a map of the U.S. from June 1 until Sept. 3. A fiesta complete with healthy food will be held when they reach Mexico.

Other offerings with the wellness program at PharmaCare include a healthy cooking class, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation programs, a wellness newsletter, and various health screenings and risk assesments. In addition to promoting in-house wellness at PharmaCare, employees are also given a carrot if they get a mammogram or colonoscopy screening, according to Bohrer.

Bohrer has a stash of exercise DVDs, healthy cookbooks and health magazines that employees can borrow. During any awareness month, employees get an awareness pin, educational information and carrots for wearing colors associated with that month. For example, employees who wear blue for Colon Cancer Awareness Month would get a carrot.

“It’s a playful way to get important health information out there. It provides employees something to take back and utilize. It forces them to think a little more,” said Bohrer, noting that the educational aspect of the program creates more awareness of health problems. “I try to bring wellness cheer wherever I go.”

On average about 75 percent of the employees at the seven PharmaCare locations participate in the program, according to Bohrer,

“It gives them something different for them to look forward to in their day,” said Bohrer.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at