Onsite Health Center
New Balance Athletics believes in bringing better health to their associates. After all, they are a global company committed to helping people live a more healthy and active lifestyle.
The company, which has been innovating for more than a century, sought information about ways to lower healthcare costs and promote wellness for its associates. After doing research on the correlation between improved health and reductions in healthcare spend, the company began researching an onsite health center. “We want to ‘run the talk,'” says Glenn Haskell, Benefits Director at New Balance who led the process.
“I was approached by Marathon Health and was very impressed with all that they offered. We just trusted our instincts that this was a good cultural match,” Haskell says. “I had confidence in what Marathon Health was saying, and ultimately, as we learned, doing all the right things. It just made sense to us to move forward.”
Haskell emphasizes that culturally, New Balance believes wellness is in their DNA, and having a program like Marathon Health was consistent with their mission. “It’s a natural fit for New Balance,” he says. “Given what we do in the world, the products we make, for us to be all in on wellness makes total sense. And that’s why we’ve got such buy-in from ownership and senior leadership.”
Improving Health Versus Shifting Costs
New Balance partnered with Marathon Health in 2009 and established three onsite health centers across the brand’s footwear manufacturing facilities in New England. Originally brought on to reduce healthcare costs, the wellness centers are now seen as a benefit to associates and one that results in true improvements in health outcomes.
“It’s easy enough to reduce medical spend by increasing a deductible, increasing copays, or cutting back the percentage of premium the employer contributes, but really those just shift costs,” Haskell says. “We didn’t want to do that.”
With Marathon Health onsite centers, New Balance has seen drops in average blood pressures and BMI. “We’re seeing these numbers improve over time and that’s just fantastic,” he says. “From a clinical perspective, I’ve been pleased with the results. And anecdotally, we have dozens of stories of associates who have lost 75 pounds, who can now pick up a grandchild, or walk upstairs. All these stories are rewarding and heartwarming.”
New Balance’s associate engagement rate with the onsite health centers is 70% with a 50% reduction in smoking prevalence, 71% reduction in high blood pressure and a 60% reduction in work days lost since partnering with Marathon Health in 2009. In addition to healthier associates, New Balance’s cumulative return on investment is $2.50 saved for every dollar spent with gross savings to date of $12.3 million.
“It’s always a challenge to prove the financials on wellness and associate health improvements,” Haskell says. “Our data suggests that we’re spending a lot less now, especially versus what we would have spent if we had done nothing.”
Partnering for a Cultural Fit
During the past 12 years, the collaboration has included combined efforts in not only engaging associates but making sure the Marathon Health Center care team is seen as part of the organization.
To reach associates, most of whom work in the factory and don’t have a company email, Marathon Health reaches out using personal email addresses to send reminders about appointments, wellness initiatives and health awareness topics, along with putting up posters in the cafeteria.
“Marathon Health has worked to build strong connections with our associates,” Haskell says. “Their presence on site has allowed them to have increased meaningful interactions that support greater care overall.”
Haskell says their care team lives and works in their community. “The clinician begins to be a part of the company team and culture,” he says. “For our Maine facility, associates will see care team members at the general store and around the neighborhood. I think that ensures a deeper connection and demonstrates our strong commitment to the program.”
The collaboration extends to New Balance being a part of the care team hiring decisions. “Marathon Health has always been very good about including New Balance staff in the interviewing process,” Haskell says. “Plant managers, the lead HR people at the plants all participated in interviewing for these key roles. Ensuring that involvement is advice I would share with anybody considering an onsite clinic.”
Going All-in on Wellness
In general, customer surveys include great feedback and consistently high satisfaction ratings of 96% from those who engage with the Marathon Health centers.
“I would highly recommend Marathon Health as an onsite clinic provider,” Haskell says. “If a company has made the decision to go all-in on wellness, I think one great way to do that is with an onsite clinic, and we have found that Marathon is best-in-class with regard to administering onsite clinics.”
Haskell notes that approximately 20% of associate visits are for acute situations with the other 80% for regularly scheduled wellness visits such as health coaching for weight and blood pressure concerns.
New Balance views the opportunity to be proactive around wellness as a significant advantage.
“We have found Marathon Health to be a high-end, high intervention wellness program. It’s not a check the box type of collaboration which is important to us,” Haskell says. “Our work with Marathon Health reflects our intent to be fully engaged and strongly committed to our associate’s health and wellbeing for the long term.”