CVS Caremark Corp. president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo and Walgreen Co. president and CEO Greg Wasson were among 22 chief executives from across U.S. industry announcing the creation of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable.

American Heart Association CEO Roundtable, AHA CEO Roundtable, Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark, Greg Wasson, Walgreen, workplace health programs, preventive care, wellness, cardiovascular health, Life's Simple 7, health screening, wellness services, heart-related death and illness, Henry Kravis, KKR, Terry Lundgren, Macy's, Nancy Brown

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CVS, Walgreens CEOs partake in workplace health initiative

July 8th, 2014

NEW YORK – CVS Caremark Corp. president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo and Walgreen Co. president and CEO Greg Wasson were among 22 chief executives from across U.S. industry announcing the creation of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable.

The goal of the initiative, unveiled Tuesday, is to instill a workplace culture in which healthy choices are the default choices. As part of the announcement, the AHA also released results from a new Nielsen online survey among 2,004 employees[ showing that Americans overestimate their health, putting them at greater risk for heart disease and other serious illness.

Nielsen's poll revealed that 74% of employees report being in very good or good health, yet 42% have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, including high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The survey also showed that CEOs and senior leadership have a big impact when it comes to getting employees engaged in workplace health programs, opening up a big opportunity for the CEO Roundtable.

The members of the AHA CEO Roundtable aim to promote preventive care and focus on wellness in their organizations, helping the AHA meet its overarching goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by 2020.

"The AHA CEO Roundtable is uniquely positioned to create real changes in health and wellness by engaging more than 2 million people where they spend most of their day — at work," roundtable co-chair Henry Kravis of KKR & Co. said in a statement. "We are taking what we know — from the CEO Roundtable companies, leading doctors and scientists, and this new data — and combining it with the expertise of the AHA to make a meaningful impact on our employees' health."

The roundtable seeks to improve health in part by encouraging employees to make simple behavior changes — such as being more active and monitoring blood pressure — to reduce their risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Specifically, the initiative will focus on Life's Simple 7, an evidence-based common standard for employee health programs based on the seven simple steps identified by AHA to significantly improve health. Research shows that people who meet the criteria for three to four of Life's Simple 7 measures, such as being more active and monitoring blood pressure, cut their risk of heart-related death by more than half.

CVS Caremark said expects to reach more than 200,000 colleagues alone nationwide via the roundtable effort.

"At CVS Caremark, we want to ensure that our employees are as healthy as can be," Merlo stated. "We are excited to share ideas with the leaders participating in the Roundtable and to learn some best practices from them as well."

CVS' Plan for Health offers incentives, including a lower paycheck contribution for colleagues who each year undergo a free health screening and complete an online health assessment. The company said the program has helped many colleagues learn, some for the first time, that they have a chronic health condition that needs to be addressed or they have the risk of developing a chronic health condition. Also, CVS provides free wellness services, such as screenings, flu shots, and smoking cessation counseling, at the company's more than 800 MinuteClinic locations.

"As the nation's largest pharmacy health care provider, CVS Caremark is committed to helping people on their path to better health. This includes employees at our stores, MinuteClinics, distribution centers and corporate offices nationwide," added Merlo.

According to the Nielsen survey, employees encouraged by senior management to participate in workplace health programs are nearly twice as likely to report improved health (61% versus 34%), and much more likely to report healthy eating (60% vs. 33%), weight loss (41% vs. 27%), and reduced blood pressure (28% vs. 15%) and cholesterol (23% vs. 14%) as a result of program participation.

Of employees who feel encouraged to participate in workplace health programs, 69% report that those programs have a strong impact on job satisfaction, and 63% cite the availability of programs as important to staying with their current employer. Almost of employees (49%) say that wellness programs make a company extremely or very attractive.

Fifty-five percent of respondents think it's extremely important, very important or important to see a CEO setting a good example in taking care of his or her own health. And although many respondents report having health-related tests in the past year, many are unable to recall the results. For example, 75% of respondents report having their blood pressure checked in the past year, but only half can recall what their blood pressure measurement actually is.

"Our employees are what make our company great, and their health is an important part of our success," said roundtable co-chair Terry Lundgren of Macy's Inc. "We know that, in the U.S., at least 200,000 deaths from heart disease could be prevented each year through changes in health habits. We need to make it easier for our employees to make these changes—to make healthy choices and lead healthy lives. That means leading by example."

The AHA's Nancy Brown, also a roundable co-chair, noted that the initiative is "starting a movement to transform the culture of the workplace" to cut employees' risk of heart-related death and illness.

"Together with some of the country's most influential CEOs, we are working to tackle this issue head-on, share best practices and identify cutting-edge, new programs to help get America heart-healthy," Brown commented. "We can't wait to start bringing our ideas to practice to help build healthier work places around the country."

Other executives participating in the AHA CEO Roundtable include Mitch Barns, Nielsen; Bruce Broussard, Humana; David Calhoun (executive chairman), Nielsen; D. Scott Davis, United Parcel Service; Paul Diaz, Kindred Healthcare; Ken Frazier, Merck; Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson; Milton Johnson, HCA; John Lederer, US Foods; Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical; Mike Mahoney, Boston Scientific; Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co.; George Paz, Express Scripts; Dr. Ralph Shrader, Booz Allen Hamilton; Randall Stephenson, AT&T; Bernard J. Tyson, Kaiser Permanente; and David West, Big Heart Pet Brands.