Inside General Mills
Smoke clears as innovative health program turns 25
|August 22, 2010
||General Mills Corporate Communications |
Twenty-five years ago, the General Mills sales force, much like people everywhere, puffed away on cigarettes in the office, in the car, at the airport, and engaged in a lot of other unhealthy behaviors.
||The healthy living program has been studied by academics and praised by health care officials. |
Dr. James L. Craig, then vice president of Health and Human Services, was concerned, so he created the TriHealthalon, a wellness program tailored for sales employees based on friendly competition in adopting healthy lifestyle changes.
This initial program, which has served as the model for a host of other wellness programs at General Mills, has led to a culture of wellness throughout the company.
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the TriHealthalon, the now retired Dr. Craig recalled when the sales staff was often shrouded in smoke.
“I think the biggest thing was smoking. You couldn’t see across the room because of smoke,” Dr. Craig says. “Good health is not an accident. Something had to be done about the lifestyle of some of the most important people within General Mills, and that was the real stimulus to get the TriHealthalon going.
“How wonderful it would be for the sales people selling our products to be going out across the nation with a healthy lifestyle concept. The concept wasn’t necessarily cool then, but 25 years later it is the truth.”
Developing healthy, balanced lives
To be effective, Dr. Craig believed the program must include mental health, modified behavior such as seat belt use, and exercise.
Like Dr. Craig before him, Dr. Tim Crimmins, his successor who recently retired after 12 years at General Mills, also believed “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“We have found that healthy employees are happy employees,” he wrote in a professional journal. “Taking health care beyond the benefits is an investment with a long-term payout, and a program can be built one step at a time.”
Program continues and improves
The blue smoke has long since cleared, and General Mills – including its sales team’s TriHealthalon – continues to be a health and wellness trendsetter and role model. The TriHealthalon is one of many ongoing companywide health and wellness programs the company coordinates or sponsors.
Not only has the program continued to flourish and expand, in 2005 a University of Michigan researcher selected 27 people who had participated in the program since its 1985 start. The researcher found:
- Smoking rates dropped from 18 percent to 0 percent in this group.
- Seat belt usage increased to 100 percent.
- Despite being 20 years older, there was improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Reported physical activity remained constant over time.
The bottom line is the program has, and will continue to pay dividends.
Inside General Mills