Wellmont, Eastman, Food City Encourage People, Businesses To Participate In Healthier Tennessee

KINGSPORT - Three of the region's most prominent and respected organizations, which have worked extensively to improve people's health, are encouraging individuals and businesses to support a statewide initiative that promotes wellness.

Wellmont Health System, Eastman Chemical Company and Food City leaders say Healthier Tennessee and its Small Starts tools are transforming lives and improving the state's well-being. Executives for these companies encourage other businesses, as well as individuals, to use these resources. 

They became more convinced of the program's impact after listening to a recent talk at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce by Rick Johnson, CEO of the Governor's Foundation for Health and Wellness, the organization that leads the Healthier Tennessee initiative.

"Healthier Tennessee empowers people to change their approach to life by giving them valuable information they can use," said Perry Stuckey, Eastman's senior vice president of human resources, who sits on the foundation's board of directors. "By simply accessing the website, they can learn alternatives to habits that provide no benefit and choose a path that leads to better health."

Announced in August and launched in October, Healthier Tennessee inspires people to adopt beneficial lifestyle patterns, such as becoming more physically active and eating nutritious foods in the right portions. The program is designed to reverse Tennessee's standing as one of the least healthy states in the nation.

The Small Starts tools, which are available at www.healthierTN.com, offer individuals and businesses strategies and ideas for becoming healthier. Small Starts @ Home provides more than 60 personal health challenges that encourage physical activity and healthy eating. These can lead people to even more ambitious goals that will put people on a path to better health. Small Starts @ Work offers more than 30 actions to help employees get healthier together. 

Many changes people can implement are relatively simple, such as eating balanced meals, keeping healthy snacks nearby, parking farther away from a person's destination, using steps instead of the elevator, and stretching. Other ways people can make a positive difference in their lives are setting and keeping dates to quit smoking and obtaining at least seven hours of sleep a night.

In kicking off Healthier Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam highlighted the Volunteer State's high rates of hypertension, stroke, Type II diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer. People can reduce their risk of developing many of these conditions and diseases through behavior modification.

Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont's president and CEO, said the regional health system sees firsthand the prevalence of preventable illnesses. That led to the creation in July of Wellmont LiveWell, an online initiative to improve the region's health status through healthy lifestyle choices. Eastman and Food City are among the multiple regional businesses to partner with Wellmont on LiveWell.  All three organizations are also involved in community efforts such as Healthy Kingsport and others that focus efforts on a local level.

"We have enjoyed broad-based support of LiveWell and are seeing positive outcomes throughout the region," DeNarvaez said. "That is vital because we have a responsibility as a health system not only to treat our patients when they are sick but to keep them healthy.

"Now the state has valuable resources from Healthier Tennessee that support local efforts by reinforcing the value of making beneficial choices. We encourage people to review the website and participate in the new Small Starts program and see how one simple change can lead to dramatic results."

Stuckey and Steve Smith, Food City's president and CEO, said their companies have participated in promoting healthy living for their employees and the community for a long time. They said Eastman, Food City, and Wellmont would be pleased to speak with any businesses that are interested in starting employee wellness programs.

"We are focused on improving our region's health and believe the well-regarded NuVal Nutritional Scoring System we introduced in our stores was an important investment in our customers," Smith said. "But we cannot accomplish these changes on our own and are pleased programs such as Small Starts and LiveWell are available to supplement what we have initiated. We appreciate Healthier Tennessee and Small Starts because it is setting a model for health all of us can support."

Stuckey said businesses can play an important role in influencing community health by working with their employees.

"We have extensive experience and continue to build on our award-winning health and wellness program to improve the lives of families," Stuckey said. "But our journey is not complete, and we will continue to look for ways to build on the progress our employees have made and extend that to the community. We are grateful the state and several corporations and foundations have invested in this issue because it can have a profound impact on the health of workers throughout Tennessee."

Johnson said collaboration with Wellmont, Eastman, and Food City will not only ensure the success of the statewide programs but also improve Tennessee's health rankings.

"Each of these companies has developed innovative methods to improve the health of Northeast Tennessee, and their collaboration with each other and with the foundation is essential to long-term success," Johnson said. "We still have a lot more to achieve, but with the support of these companies and the commitment of everyone else in our state, we will make a positive difference in the quality of people's lives."