First started as a walking initiative, Orlando Health’s prevention and wellness program, Healthy U,  has expanded to a joint effort with Weight Watchers.

Since the program started in 2007, 1,500 Orlando Health employees have dropped nearly 6,500 pounds through exercise and healthy eating habits.

In March, Orlando Health switched up the choices in the cafeteria so that half of the options are healthy. The cafeteria also lowered the price for the salad bar and a bottle of water.

Half of the participants have taken advantage of the gym and cafeteria pricing options while the other half opt to attend Weight Watchers meetings or follow the program online.

“Everyone chooses their own path to weight loss,” said Kena Lewis, director of public affairs at Orlando Health. “Because we know it’s a personal thing, we offer options.”

While the collective weight loss averages just four pounds each, several employees have made bigger strides, including a 57-year-old who lost 50 pounds and a 42-year-old who lowered her blood sugar and was weaned off her blood-pressure medication.

"We are extremely pleased at both the number of team members who are participating in this program and with the success they are having," said Lee O'Donnell, corporate manager of prevention and wellness for Orlando Health, in a statement.  "Changing one's lifestyle is difficult.  We're happy to be able to provide the tools to help them do that."

Employees participating in the program also receive reduced membership fees to join Weight Watchers and $100 reimbursements for gym memberships.

 

colwright@tribune.com or 406-420-5433