NHBR health forum focuses on benefits of wellness

Some 200 health-care leaders, human resources professionals and other business executives from around New Hampshire came together Tuesday at the 2009 NHBR Health Care Forum to learn and discuss the benefits of employee health and wellness programs.

The event, hosted by NHBR and presented by MVP Health Care, was held at The Event Center at C.R. Sparks in Bedford. Attendees were presented with a wealth of information on the issues affecting health-care costs and what they, as employers, could do immediately to begin helping their employees live healthier lives — and reduce insurance premiums.

“In order to reduce health-care costs, the focus must be on the root causes,” said Sharron McCarthy, president of McLean Communications and publisher of NHBR. “Only then can you begin to motivate employees to live healthier lives.”

The program was highlighted by the presentations of the event’s three keynote speakers, Gary Hirshberg, president and chief executive of Londonderry-based yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, Tom Oksanen, senior vice president of employee benefits for Fidelity Investments, and Peter Hayes, director of associate health and wellness for the Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain.

Among the issues discussed were the correlation of food — the way it is produced, processed and distributed — and health and disease.

Quoting a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hirshberg said that “70 percent of diseases in America can be prevented by diet and exercise.”

Oksanen, who is responsible for the work/life programs and benefits for Fidelity’s 40,000 employees, spoke on incentives to encourage employees to take responsibility for their own health and how it affects health-care costs.

Hannaford’s Hayes illustrated how nutrition and making good food choices also plays a key role in managing health and health-care costs.

The NHBR Health Care Forum was moderated by The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. The event was sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, Concord Hospital, Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, Granite Group Benefits, Ocean Bank, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire, CGI Employee Benefits Group, Comcast and Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology. — CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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