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St. Vincent Medical Center Named a Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association

Los Angeles, CA (October 23, 2012) – According to the American Heart Association (AHA), St. Vincent Medical Center (SVMC) is an employer who goes “above and beyond” when it comes to its employees’ health. In honor of that distinction, St. Vincent Medical Center has received Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite status. In a letter announcing this award, Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association, cites SVMC’s vision in recognizing the importance of a healthy workplace and has followed up with steps to create a “culture of wellness” by providing support to its staff.

“It all started with a Walking Club and a Stairs Club in September 2011,” offers Gail Watts, director of Human Resources who oversees the program. “We gave out pedometers to all associates and now more than 70 associates participate in the Walking Club.”

The SVMC cafeteria is the Fit-Friendly hub, where associates can learn about nutrition and healthy food choices, which are highlighted with a wellness symbol. A Grain of the Month is introduced into the cafeteria menus. “We put healthy food into the vending machines and associates can push a button to get caloric content of their purchase,”Watts adds. “We also created a Wellness Center in the cafeteria where associates receive information on smoking cessation, diabetes, 24 Hour Fitness discounted gym memberships, and a Weight Watchers class held onsite,” she adds. Associates are encouraged to take a Wellness Assessment annually to raise awareness of their health factors, and incentives are available for those who walk, bike or take mass transit to work. In-house gym equipment is available for associates who want to exercise after work.

The AHA reports heart disease is the No. 1 killer in theUS, and physical inactivity doubles the risk. Poor diet and lack of exercise are now responsible for at least 25% of healthcare costs incurred by working adults. Their research shows for every $1 invested in corporate wellness, companies can receive up to $3 in return.

In order to reach Gold status, participating organizations must ensure 25 employees are taking part in the program. As a Fit-Friendly Worksite, SVMC receives recognition on the AMA website (, recognition at local events sponsored by the AMA and also in communication materials supporting the program. SVMC has also been given the right to use the Fit-Friendly Worksite Gold seal on internal and external communications. SVMC carries the recognition for one year, at which time they may reapply.

AMA offers the following suggestions for organizations and companies who want to build an employee wellness program:

  1. Sign up for National Walking Day sponsored by AHA on the first Wednesday in April annually. (April 3, 2013).
  2. Offer employees smart food choices in meetings and in the cafeteria.
  3. Utilize the AMA tools such as the free, online Activity Tracker, which allows employees to post and keep track of their physical activities throughout the day.
  4. Provide walking routes within a close proximity to company buildings for before, noontime and after work activity.

According to SVMC President & CEO Cathy Fickes, this partnership with AHA has provided encouragement for SVMC associates. “Working together with AHA on this project has spurred our associates to get busy and get well,” she says. “When our caregivers take good care of themselves they are better equipped to care for others. Being named a Fit-Friendly Worksite is a win-win situation for everyone.”

About St. Vincent Medical Center: With three consecutive years of awards for quality healthcare services from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), St. Vincent Medical Center has been ranked fifth among Best Hospitals in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area for 2011-2012, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Providing compassionate healthcare and serving the sick poor has been the mission of St. Vincent Medical Center for more than 155 years. Established in downtown Los Angeles in 1856 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Vincent is a world-renowned, 366-bed facility, offering comprehensive medical services, including ear surgery and neurosurgery, general orthopaedics, spine care, joint replacement, cancer treatment, cardiovascular services, thoracic surgery, electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, and multi-organ transplantation.

St. Vincent Medical Center is part of the Daughters of Charity Health System, a nonprofit Catholic health system spanning the California coast.