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Biometrics Program Helps Students Evaluate Their Health

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

On Mar. 19, 2012, the second of a series of four biometrics programs was held in the Heights Room from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. These events, called “Know Your Numbers,” offer the opportunity for employees and students of Boston College to learn their cholesterol and blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body mass index in order to make choices to remain or become healthy.

This program takes place annually, and is currently in its second year. Working with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the goal is to improve the health of BC employees in order to lower healthcare costs.

“The costs of healthcare were not sustainable,” said Bob Lewis, associate vice president for Human Resources. “We wanted to know, what can we do to have a win-win, both for the University and the employees?”

Twelve other universities are holding similar programs, called the “Healthy You” program. “Healthy You” is sponsored by the Boston Consortium. While each school may hold different types of programs, the overarching goal is to lower the cost of healthcare.

According to Lewis, there are six critical numbers to avoid disease—height, weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, overall cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Being aware of these numbers and the healthy ranges can help prevent health problems such as diabetes and heart attacks.

“The first time you know you have high blood pressure shouldn’t be in the emergency room because you’ve had a heart attack,” Lewis said. “It should be now so you can do something about it.”

Last year, over 2,000 BC employees and their spouses participated in a confidential Health Questionnaire. This allowed for an overall picture of the health of those participating in the study.

“What we found from last year’s health questionnaire was that employees needed to lose weight, exercise more, and manage their stress better,” Lewis said.

This year, incentives are not only being offered for taking the Health Questionnaire, which requires knowledge of the six critical numbers for completion, but also for engaging with a coach to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A $75 gift card is given as a reward for participating in the health questionnaire, with an additional $50 gift card for meeting with a coach.

“We were pleased with slightly over 2,000 people taking the Health Questionnaire, but we would like to exceed that this year. We’re really emphasizing coaching, which is why we’re offering incentive for that,” Lewis said. The coaches, all nurses, meet with the employees and their spouses and act as a resource for a better understanding of the six critical numbers and tips for changing those numbers if necessary. Last year, 350 people engaged with health coaches, a number Lewis would like to see double this year.

According to Lewis, the effects of these promotions on employees can be seen in a variety of levels. “One employee found his blood pressure was in the danger zone. We said ‘go right to your doctor and get this under control.’ There are some we help immediately, but most is long term activities that lead to healthier lifestyles,” Lewis said.

While this program focuses mainly on employees of BC, students can also receive similar help for maintaining a healthy lifestyle through programs under Student Affairs. They are also welcome to attend a “Know Your Numbers” session and have their six critical numbers evaluated.

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