Fitness Benefit Comes in From the Fringe

"Fitness on the Job" (Aug. 17) discussed the challenges of demonstrating the economic benefits of work site health promotion. Though the work site poses obstacles to classic research design, the article paints a negative picture of the efficacy of employee health programs and ignores a number of existing studies over the past 20 years that show significant cost benefit.

A second point regards the wisdom of "an ounce of prevention." Extensive research conducted by the University of Michigan's Health Management Research Center has shown that it is more cost-effective to keep healthy employees healthy (saving $350 per employee per year), than to merely focus on efforts to intervene with high-risk populations (saving $153 per employee per year). The bottom line is that companies need to do both, but not ignore the healthy.

In addition, emerging research in health and productivity management has shown that the indirect costs of poor health are two to three times direct medical and pharmacy costs. Outside of absenteeism and disability, the largest contributor to indirect costs is so-called presenteeism -- reduced productivity while on the job. Studies have shown that health risks (e.g., obesity and stress) as well as leading chronic health conditions impair on-the-job performance and contribute up to 60 percent of total health costs.

George J. Pfeiffer

Charlottesville

Pfeiffer is a founder and former president of the Association for Worksite Health Promotion.

Since 1987, the City of Rockville has provided a comprehensive work site wellness program because we do care about the quality of life of our employees. An internal employee survey conducted every two years provided overwhelming proof that wellness programs are a great investment for employers in the public and private sectors.

Rockville's wellness program strives to support employees by continually improving morale, fostering healthy lifestyles and promoting a healthy work environment. With just one full-time employee dedicated to our program, throughout the year employees are offered a variety of life-helping programs including counseling, education and screenings. They also can participate in activities that stress exercise, therapeutic and stretching interests.

About 73 percent of the City's approximately 500 employees participated in at least one wellness program in the past fiscal year.

An employee at his retirement party recently mentioned that having his vision screened at a wellness-sponsored health fair saved his sight. Other employees have reported the wellness program has helped them get their diabetes under control by having made lifestyle changes. And the PSA screening program sponsored by Rockville's wellness program has led to the detection of prostate cancer in an employee. Making these discoveries early not only benefits the employees but also saves the City health care costs.

Diane Boyle Fogash

Wellness Coordinator

City of Rockville

Rockville

Health Clubs, Pros and Cons

I applaud The Moving Crew for bringing crucial concerns about local health clubs to the forefront through your weekly column, the online chats and public forums. My staff and I are loyal readers of the Health section -- and we hope that our members are, too.

I feel fortunate that The Sports Club/LA does not fall victim to your respondents' most crucial complaints.

In response to a readers' concern about day care, we're proud to offer a comprehensive child care program at "For Kids Only," The Sports Club/LA's signature day care center, open seven days a week. Members' children ages 6 months through 12 years enjoy a fun, safe and creative environment with a variety of athletic activities, sports programming, art, music and computer education. For Kids Only has been up and running since the club's opening in October 2000, providing "Family Day" on Sundays, "Parents Night Out" on the last Thursday of every month and birthday parties for members' children and friends.

In addition, we offer more than 100 group exercise classes a week, with the majority of attendees coming in before and after the 9-to-5 workday. Our group exercise manager creates the schedule based on member suggestions, past class attendance and a balanced variety of cardio, body/mind, body sculpting, boxing, outdoor fitness, REV (our trademarked cycling studio) and dance-based classes.

Dave Nelson

General Manager

The Sports Club/LA

Washington

You might want to check out the Monroe Street Y in Alexandria. They offer plenty of early-morning and evening classes (my personal favorite is the 6 a.m. yoga class). And they offer child care in a small but cheery and well-equipped room. It's a modest facility, but apparently they do a better job of serving their members than many of the bigger clubs mentioned in your piece. Who knew!

Perri Strawn

Alexandria

I have been at my current gym for one year and am very dissatisfied, and mostly due to non-responsiveness from the management. I have written five letters to the management requesting either more classes or more challenging classes. I have requested that their day care turn off the television that keeps the children anaesthetized for an hour. (It is a gym, after all; shouldn't the kids be active?!)

Despite leaving my phone number and personal information, I have not received one reply from anybody in management. In fact, one staff member turned up her nose in disgust that I would ask if there were any planned changes in the morning schedule.

I have spoken with instructors who acknowledge the problem with the lightweight classes, and who say they have also spoken with management to no avail.

Come September I will take my money elsewhere. If they don't have the courtesy to respond to inquiries and requests, they don't need my money, either.

Nadya Lambert

Burke