Have you heard the exciting news? Rowan County has been honored as the 2019 Healthiest Employer of Greater Charlotte by the Charlotte Business Journal! The Charlotte region for this award was defined by the following counties in North Carolina: Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union. South Carolina counties included: Chester, Chesterfield, Lancaster, and York. Wow – way to go Rowan! Read the full press release here.


Working Towards the Healthiest Rowan County for Our Employees

First, we are so proud of Rowan County for this award! The nomination comes after the completion of a 100-item questionnaire detailing programming offered, programming utilized, health status of employees, retirees, and dependents, and more. This award reflects an ongoing collaboration with several health partners, including Novant Health Rowan Medical Center’s Corporate Health and Wellness Program.

We know that currently more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese which puts them at risk for heart disease, stroke, and many other chronic illnesses. Rowan County is no exception. Making changes to health benefits in the workplace is one impactful way to help people be healthier because people spend the majority of their time at work.

“The cost of medical care has increased at a rate much faster than normal inflation and these rising costs are particularly painful for Rowan County employees. Rowan County is committed to reducing the demand for healthcare services by helping employees improve their health. Our wellness initiatives are aimed at helping employees improve their health behaviors and lower their risks for serious health conditions that contribute to rising costs such as heart disease and diabetes. Controlling healthcare costs is not the only benefit of our wellness initiatives. A healthy workplace for Rowan County employees leads to improved personal lives and increased workplace productivity, all of which translates to the highest quality of services provided to the citizens of Rowan County,”says Kelly Natoli, Rowan County Human Resources Director.

Rowan County is working towards creating a culture of health by encouraging employees to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating healthy, being active, and managing or reverse chronic conditions like diabetes. Maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs such as insurance premiums, workers compensation claims, and indirect costs such as absenteeism, worker productivity, company longevity, and worker happiness.

  • The CDC reported in 2015 that productivity losses linked to employees who miss work cost employers $225.8 billion, which is $1,685 per employee per year.
  • Absenteeism increases with factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Supportive environments can encourage folks to engage in more activity and eating healthier each day.
  • Moreover, researchers determined the per capita medical spending is $2,741 higher for obese individuals than for individuals who were not obese.
  • But there is hope – the CDC states that just a 1% reduction in excess weight and high blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels has been shown to save $83 to $103 annually in medical costs per person.


What Makes Up the Rowan County Wellness Program Innovative?

First, each year Novant Health Rowan Medical Center offers biometric screenings, which provides a number of data points related to health – height and weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol labs, and blood glucose tests. At the same time, employees are connected to local primary care doctors, if they do not otherwise have one. Knowing the right doctor to go to is essential to ensure the best care for any health concern. For example, our Novant Health Emergency Department physicians are excellent – but they are not the right choice to fix a cold or the flu.

Next, employees and retirees are incentivized if they are able to meet certain health requirements and complete a health risk assessment. Incentivizing healthy employees and providing services for employees who need health services is a great model for ensuring access to the proper health care, especially to local doctors.

In addition, Rowan County employees, retirees, and dependents have access to a Nurse Practitioner, located at our Rowan County Health Department, to meet their immediate healthcare needs. Employees are given 4 hours of wellness time per year to attend doctor’s appointments instead of having to take time off.

Another unique program provided to employees, retirees, and dependents is a Diabetes Management Program and Case Manager. This program helps employees become healthier with weekly and monthly check-ins, free diabetic supplies, low-cost medications, and a monetary incentive for decreasing their A1C (a measure of blood sugar).

Finally, employees have the opportunity to receive a FitBit subsidy and participate in the Rowan County FitBit Program for walking challenges throughout the year. Walking challenges vary from the most steps per month to most improved, so everyone has a chance to win. Employees can fill out an Exercise Log or answer wellness questions in the Employee Newsletter to win wellness gifts and prizes each month or quarter.


So, What’s Next For Rowan County?

Aldrea Speight, Human Resources Analyst I, said, “I am excited to be a part of an organization that is pushing the needle forward in employee health and wellness in our region by offering a highly diversified and comprehensive wellness program. We try to meet the needs of our employee population, no matter where they may be in their health journey. It’s gratifying to hear the personal stories of employees and view data that indicate health improvements. Improvements in health among our employee population have positive impacts on the individual level for our employees in terms of lowering health risk and improving quality of life, and on the organizational level with regards to work productivity and employee morale. Rowan County has a number of individuals, both internally and externally, who are working collaboratively to create a culture of health and wellness within our organization. Together, we constantly strive to learn new ways to improve our program so we can in turn improve the lives of Rowan County employees and their families.”

When I spoke with Aldrea, she shared that more is on the horizon for the health and wellness of Rowan County and the more than 106 employees that are served. Some innovative practices include:

  • Using data analytics to help track how employees connect to health providers.
  • Creating a culture of good health habits with strong leadership buy-in. .
  • Using systems thinking and co-design to develop programs with employees, instead of for them.

Some additional programs we could see include healthy food policies for meetings, proper nutrition awareness, using county funding, promoting walking groups for employee health and wellness breaks, and integrating “Exercise is Medicine” into regular health visits for employees.


Rowan County employees celebrate the Healthiest Employer award.


“Novant Health Rowan Medical Center is proud of the collaboration we have had with the Rowan County Government over the last several years,” said Shawn Edman, Corporate Health Account Manager. “Each year, we have been able to provide additional services for employees, improving connectivity, and promoting innovative practices.”

Shawn isn’t just a Novant Health employee – he’s also a board member of the Community Care Clinic of Rowan County, board member of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, and committee member of the Leadership Rowan Program through Rowan Chamber of Commerce.  He understands what Rowan County citizens might need in terms of health. Shawn said that because Novant Health is a strong community supporter, it just makes sense for them to provide health services for Rowan County. It keeps money within Rowan County, which allows for a percentage to be given back to nonprofit and social service partners through Novant Health Rowan’s Social Responsibility Division. Every dollar invested in prevention and health comes back to Rowan County five-fold.

In Rowan County, we have a renewed and energized focus on Whole Health, which is an approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of physical, emotional, and mental health for all. We joke – you can’t remove the head from the body – so when we start talking about healthy eating and physical activity, we can’t ignore that mental health has a part to play.

As the Health Connector for Your Rowan, I am excited to see how we can continue to diffuse a culture of health throughout Rowan County, especially in our business community. We already see this with the annual Rowan Chamber Dragon Boat Festival set for July 27. I’ll be there at the Your Rowan booth – come say hi!