The importance of being well: PKM Steel Wellness Program

Editors Note: For over 35-years, the Riordan Clinic has focused on “…stimulating an epidemic of health,” yet, has remained (for the most part) under wraps among the local community. Since 2009, the Riordan Clinic has slowly made progress and become a recognizable brand.

But in Oct 2011, we realized that what we had accomplished was not enough. We wished to implement an individualized regimen utilizing our years of research and knowledge that would influence a paradigm shift in health care. Out of this realization, the Riordan Clinic HealthMarkers Program was born.

The following article was featured in the  Salina Journal on March 18, 2012. It discusses the impact the Riordan Clinic HealthMarkers Program has had on the workers of PKM Steel.

For more information about the Riordan Clinic HealthMarkers Program, contact the Clinic at 316-682-3100.

The importance of being well: PKM Steel Wellness Program

by Michael Strand

Salina Journal

Regular meetings with a nutritionist and personal trainer, regular blood tests and meetings with a doctor to explain the results, free nutritional supplements and reduced prices on running shoes and spa treatments might sound like the perks of working for a Silicon Valley start-up. In reality, they’re part of a new employee wellness program at Salina-based PKM Steel.

PKM’s chief operating officer, Mark Hamade, has seen his share of employee wellness programs and describes them with characteristic bluntness: “They try to make everybody do some jumping jacks at the start of their shift or something — it’s crap.”

What Hamade wanted to do was assemble a program that would do what so many wellness programs don’t do: deliver meaningful, long-term results.

“Participation rates don’t mean anything,” he said. “You get a lot of people going through the motions and say it’s a success. What matters is people are healthier and happier.”

Over several months, Hamade talked to local businesses and organizations in Wichita and Chicago to put together the program, which was formally unveiled in late February.

People who enroll in the plan get a 20 percent reduction in their health insurance premiums; employees who aren’t on PKM’s insurance plan can also participate for a small fee, Hamade said.

Other perks of participating include discounts at several local businesses, including Chiropractic Wellness Center, Salina Running Company, Humphrey Gym and Tuscon’s Steakhouse, as well as discounts on oil changes at Bennett Autoplex. At Hamade’s invitation, employees at several of  those businesses also are participating in the wellness program.

Two blood tests a year

Participants’ will have their blood tested twice a year by the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, receiving a four-page printout detailing close to 60 different factors, including numerous vitamin and mineral levels, cholesterol, sodium, glucose, calcium and other levels, along with a face-to-face meeting with a nutritionist to explain what it all means.

That nutritionist, Christie Ryan, owner of  Concepts in Weight Management, will meet with each participant monthly to help set goals and keep on track to meeting them.

Ryan started her business in 1993 and has worked with individuals.

“This is my first step into corporate wellness,” Ryan said.

She believes a group of  people who know each other and see each other regularly has a better chance of  success.

“I think it will make a huge difference,” Ryan said. “As an individual, it’s easy to brush it off.”

But, she said, it helps “… if  you’re doing this with lots of  people at work, everyone’s talking about exercise, what they’re eating and things like, ‘Wow, how’d you do at the  last weigh-in?’ ”

Tracking the progress

Ryan will also keep track of  participants’ progress in a variety of  healthy behaviors, including whether they eat breakfast, whether they’re getting regular exercise (with additional points for exercise with weights).

Ryan has been meeting with the employees to find out their goals.

“Most are saying they want more energy, to feel better and have more energy,” she said. “That can involve weight loss but also diet and exercise.”

Not easy to maintain

While people are approaching the program with different goals, Ryan’s experience tells her the common hurdle they’ll all face sooner or later.

“The biggest problem is consistency,” Ryan said. “When people are motivated, it’s not too hard to start something, but after the desperation leaves, it’s harder to maintain.”

It’s important to have a routine in order to stay on track with both healthy eating and exercise, and Ryan said disrupting that routine can often cause problems.

Riordan Clinic in Wichita

The blood testing and other medical services, as well as the supplements PKM employees will be taking, are provided through Riordan Clinic in Wichita.

Just two years ago, said Dr. Ryun Muller, he didn’t know what Riordan Clinic did, and he finally decided to check out the complex which includes a white pyramid and several domes visible from Kansas Highway 96 and Hillside in north Wichita.

The clinic emphasizes nutrition as a key to better health, and Muller said the wellness program he’s developing for PKM “practices what the doctors here have been doing for 30 years with individual patients.”

Muller said he hadn’t been at the clinic for long when he began pondering ways to bring the clinic’s work to a corporate setting. That’s when Hamade contacted him.

“I was thinking, ‘You’ve (the clinic) spent 35 years developing these ideas, but even now, the general public isn’t aware of  it,’ ”

Muller said. “Mark asked if there was anything we could do on the corporate level … it was like two rivers flowing in the same direction and meeting.”

Practicing wellness

Muller said the emphasis on nutrition is “this whole other half  of  nutrition that needs to be addressed — this is the wellness program I always wanted in my practice.”

Muller said he’s seen firsthand how quickly and how dramatically proper nutrition can improve health.

When Muller joined Riordan Clinic, he had the same type of blood test PKM employees are receiving, and his vitamin C level was “undetectable.”

“Once I started changing my diet and supplementing with vitamin C, I could see a huge change … I’m feeling better since I’ve been here,” Muller said, adding that while there’s no universal deficiency, “I have not run across anybody yet who has perfect nutrition — I can tell you that … there’s this idea that given how much Americans overeat, we must be getting all the nutrients we need, and that’s not true.”

A return on investment

Muller agrees with Hamade’s assessment of “most” employee wellness plans and said that in developing the model for PKM, he talked to dozens of companies and experts in the field.

Most of the time, he said, a wellness program doesn’t save a company money, “or at best, breaks even, and they usually give up after one to three years.”

Most such programs, however, aren’t as extensive as the one he’s developing for PKM, and he thinks the company will start seeing a return on its investment in about three years.

“Mark has a line at the bottom of his emails, ‘Money doesn’t lead to Happiness, Happiness can lead to Money!’ and that isn’t necessarily so, but it certainly opens the door,” Muller said.

“Happier employees will be more productive and more innovative. You’re more prone to have good ideas if you’re feeling better.”

Source: March 18, 2012 Salina Journal