Business of Well-being

An Interview with Dena Pflieger, Global Health Promotion Leader at Dow Chemical Company

Corporate Wellness Magazine recently had the privilege to sit down on a recent trip to Washington D.C. and spend a few minutes with Dena Pflieger,  who is the Global Health Promotion Leader at  Dow Chemical Company. The interview focused on the importance of wellness at Dow Chemical and what innovative programs they were offering to make their employees healthier.

Corporate Wellness Magazine: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at Dow Chemical Company?

Dena: I'm currently the Global Health Promotion Leader at Dow. I actually started as an intern, I needed to do an internship to finish grad school and came to Dow because of their program and opportunity and it's continued to offer challenges as well as a lot of support for health and wellness.

CWM: How important is corporate wellness? Is it one of the only ways to reduce healthcare costs?

Dena: I think it is critical and a key piece of the puzzle, but not the only way to reduce healthcare costs. I think it's important because obviously the economic impact is both clear and substantial, but I think employers in the workplace have the opportunity to create a micro culture of health and there are often ways to influence the community as well as healthcare plans. So again, I believe they play an important part, but definitely can't be the only part.

CWM: What corporate wellness programs have you implemented at Dow Chemical?

Dena: A wide variety, we definitely take a comprehensive and strategic approach to it and we found in places and times that we haven't, that that has been our greatest failure and so we need to make sure that we are doing the needs assessment at the beginning. We need to look at all of the dimensions of health that we are evaluating and continue to improve what we are doing.

CWM: What programs have had the most success?

Dena: I thought about this and it's hard for me perhaps because I'm always looking for ways to improve them. What is truly most successful for us is the combination of the things that we do, the work that we do and trying to create a healthy environment as well as individual interventions. It really is the mix of that that helps us succeed.

We have had some pockets of success, or things that stand out, here more recently. We do a "Dow No Tobacco Day" that is a very simple 24 hour event that correlates well with the World No Tobacco Day, but sometimes that falls on a weekend so we try to have it the Thursday before that so our global workforce can participate.

We really have a global statement and a challenge about the day for the individual. Can you stop using tobacco for 24 hours? As well as to our sites, what can you do in this 24 hour period to help your worksite be more supportive of tobacco cessation? It reinforces that commitment that we have to both the individual as well as to the worksite to do that.

The other really great thing about it is there is commonality and energy around the globe, but it allows for a local flexibility so depending on what their situation and resources are they can really customize for that and have some energy that continues. We also do follow-up with the individuals who commit that day so that it becomes more of a tobacco cessation intervention because we follow them for the next year so that we can help them continue to quit and it also gives us better data on our success rates.

CWM: What is the best way to get employee engagement in corporate wellness?

Dena: I think the most important is to approach your wellness program with a sense of integrity and the long-term. So if your employees trust that what you are doing is in their best interests and also is based on things that work and you aren't just trying some things that sound interesting or for fun, then they are going to make it worth their time and will want to be engaged.

We have talked at a lot of conferences about creating that culture of health, but I think that is a part of it, that it becomes the "norm" to engage in your health and take ownership in your health, than to not.

CWM: Do you offer any other wellness programs in your international offices or are they just in the United States?

Dena: We have a full global program. One thing that makes us unique is we have a company commitment, it is actually a requirement, that we have health promotions offered to every employee around the world regardless of their location. It challenges us to think about how do we reach people in a virtual office in Iowa or Bangladesh as well as at our corporate headquarters?

What that does for us is allows us to focus on how are we are going to meet people's needs and offer wellness, as opposed to are we going to? We do have a global core - a standard program that we offer everywhere, some standard expectations as well as some sort of core tools. The "Dow No Tobacco Day" is one of those examples that is offered everywhere, but we do have local contacts that can customize the activities and add to that program based on local needs.

CWM: What would you say to another employer that is interested in implementing a wellness programs, but isn't sure if they will receive a return on investment?

Dena: I think the biggest question is can they afford to continue what they are doing today? Regardless of what that ROI is, the trends that they are probably seeing in health risks and health care costs are not sustainable. They have got to look for some solutions. I think that we have seen that we can do this with fairly minimal investment.

The other thing that I would say to them is that you have to believe in it, it can't be just, I've got a problem and I went to this conference and I read in this magazine that I should really do this so I'm just going to put this out there, that's not going to be successful. You need to understand how does it fit into your strategy, who your company is and really commit to doing it.

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