Perdue receives worksite wellness award.
Cheryl Stafford, corporate health strategies manager at Perdue Farms, accepts the Gold Wellness at Work Award from Van Mitchell, secretary of the Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene.

SALISBURY, Md. – Employees at Perdue Farms are one step closer to being healthier individuals and the Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene is recognizing their efforts. The department’s Healthiest Maryland Businesses initiative presented Perdue Farms with its Gold Wellness at Work Award for the company’s Health Improvement Program at the recent annual Maryland Workplace Health and Wellness Symposium.

In 2008, Perdue Farms established its Health Improvement Program (HIP) to encourage employees get healthy. The program allows employees to participate in a voluntary health screening and healthy activities by working with the company’s on-site health care professionals. HIP is a preventative program designed to improve Perdue employees’ health and wellness by focusing on various health risks, including smoking, weight, diabetes and blood pressure.

“We are thrilled to receive recognition for our efforts and commitment to providing ongoing wellness programs to our associates,” said Dawn Carey, director of Perdue’s health and wellness programs. “The true success of this accomplishment is the associates, their engagement, motivation and unwavering commitment to make behavior modifications and take actionable steps to improve their health and well-being. By helping to make the associates aware of their health profile, we can support them in making positive changes in their lives that will not only affect them, but their families and the communities in which they live.”

The Wellness at Work Awards, sponsored by Healthiest Maryland Businesses, is part of the state’s initiative to support Maryland businesses’ efforts to encourage healthy workplaces. Employers may earn a Gold, Silver, Bronze or On the Path award. According to the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, “To be eligible for an award, businesses are required to establish leadership support for wellness, create wellness committees, survey the needs and interests of their employees, set health improvement goals, and develop monitoring tools to track outcomes over time.”

Perdue won the Gold Award after presenting two years of data from its HIP program in three specific health areas: physical activity/weight, hypertension and diabetes. Perdue’s HIP data from January 2014 to 2016 showed a 9 percent decrease in weight, 60 percent of hypertensive associates lowered their blood pressure and about 44 percent of pre-diabetic and diabetic associates decreased A1C sugar levels.

Enrollment in HIP has increased about 85 percent since the first year. Cheryl Stafford, Perdue’s corporate health strategies manager said. “The HIP program is a tremendous benefit to the associates because most chronic conditions do not have any signs or symptoms but are preventable with lifestyle modifications. Prevention and early intervention is imperative to living a long and healthy life.”

“It may seem unusual for a food and agriculture company to be in the health business, but we believe we’re in the people business first,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “My Dad (Frank Perdue) always said, ‘if you take care of your people first, they will take care of the business.’ Our Wellness Centers and Health Improvement Program builds upon our company’s people-first philosophy.”

The Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene recently launched a statewide effort to address public health challenges, called Winnable Battles. “Winnable Battles is a platform for in-house innovation here within the department to better serve Maryland,” said Van Mitchell, secretary of the Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene. “We will focus on six areas – customer service, disease prevention, healthy communities, healthy lifestyles, sobriety and recovery, and workplace wellness. We want to help our employees embark on journeys to improve their own health, as well.

“For us at the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, ‘Wellness at Work’ constitutes a Winnable Battle, a means of promoting healthy choices and activity where most Marylanders spend a large part of their week — their job,” Mitchell said. “This promotion is an opportunity to recognize the work of employers to foster environments that make it easier for Marylanders to make those choices that we know can prevent the onset of such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”