BEST BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION PROGRAM

Chesapeake Energy Corp. • Oklahoma City

To improve the health of employees at high medical or emotional risk of disease, Chesapeake Energy Corp. sponsors a 30-week program called Live Better Forever. It uses a multifaceted approach that includes medical, nutritional, physical and psychological components to bring about behavioral changes and create a healthier lifestyle for participants.

Chesapeake Energy uses its internal fitness center and corporate dietician for the program. Nutritious meals also are brought in from an off-site caterer, and an external food psychologist meets with each participant.

Participating employees must apply for acceptance in the program. The 18 employees in the latest round were chosen based on medical and psychological need, rather than weight alone. The program specifically targets employees with high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking or a family history of disease.

Goals for the program are to improve participants' lives, reduce health care costs for the company, decrease absenteeism and increase higher employee productivity, says Landon Dean, Chesapeake strength and conditioning coordinator.

Participants set measurable goals with their program coaches. By breaking down the program into doable parts, they are better able to achieve individual health goals, Dean says.

“The psychologist helped with goal-setting, and as personal trainers, we talked about their physical goals, like the person who said, ‘I want to be able to play with my grandchildren,’ or I had two ladies who wanted to do a half marathon,” Dean says. “If you find something honed down for a goal, they have something to shoot for. Then it gives them a feeling of self accomplishment.”

The program is broken into three phases to allow participants to meet short-term goals and adopt new behaviors before moving on to the next segment. Dean says the process of learning new behaviors gradually, rather than all at once, increases program adherence.

Phase one consists of making dietary changes with the help of the dietician. Employees keep a food diary during this three-month period. Phase two features continued nutritional counseling plus exercise. Personal trainers are available for the participants, who are required to exercise both individually and in groups at the company's onsite fitness center. Phase three focuses on exercise adherence and setting goals.

The total cost for the most recent program was $33,850. Employees contributed $25 per week for food, but the company reimbursed the expenses 100 percent once participants successfully completed the program. The fee contributed $12,150 to the overall revenue of the program. However, Dean says the program's goal wasn't about making money but rather about making employees healthier.

“We had great success with weight loss, though we realize there's more to a person than how much they weigh,” Dean says. “We made life more fulfilling for them. Everyone had results with weight and self-esteem and decreasing medication.”

At the end of the program, participating employees lost weight and improved body composition, but just as importantly, they gained increased self-confidence in the fitness center and the workplace, and they became more self-motivated, Dean notes. Additionally, the coaches helped participants set six-month goals and planned follow-up meetings to help the employees assess their progress.