January 19, 2012
As workplace wellnesss programs continue to gain in profile among employers for their employee productivity and insurance cost-reducing benefits, the American Heart Association is recognizing companies that are progressive in improving workforce health through its Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program.

The association started the recognition program as a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce by helping companies make their employees' health and well-being a priority. The program honors employers that champion a culture of physical activity and healthy living in the workplace. Recognition is valid for one year, and companies must renew annually by completing a form.

The Start! program has three recognition levels: Platinum, Gold, and Innovation Award Winners. Employers that join the program qualify for official recognition by the AHA and are listed on the program's national website, as well as being honored at local events. The requirements for the three levels of recognition, the application form, and the Fit-Friendly Companies list are available at the Start! website (go to the In the Workplace tab).

Qualifying companies also have the right to use the program's annual recognition seal for internal communications and external, recruitment-related communications. Participating companies also get free access to resources, such as the AHA’s Worksite Wellness Walking Program, materials to help promote company wellness programs to employees, internal newsletter templates, and consultation on CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) programs.

Start! also offers MyStart! Online, a free web-based fitness and nutrition tracker for companies and individuals. Its online dashboard lets HR or wellness managers view employee participation in Start!

According to the AHA, American employers face health-care expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion per year. Employers face $12.7 billion in annual medical expenses due to obesity alone. The AHA also notes that walking is the work-sponsored physical activity with the lowest dropout rate.

The Dallas-based AHA is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.