SCHAUMBURG, ILL. (April 26, 2018)  Assurance announced today that Liz Smith, president of Assurance, headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., will co-chair the American Heart Association’s 2018-19 Chicago Go Red for Women campaign. Smith takes on the role with a personal goal to not only raise more awareness of heart disease risk among women, but to get employers more involved in cultivating healthier workplaces that support employee health and happiness.

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women in the U.S., claiming the life of one woman every 80 seconds.

 “After hearing story after story of women in my age group who look like me and have a similar lifestyle but were affected by heart disease, I knew this was something I had to get behind. It doesn’t matter if you have a healthy lifestyle or not – heart disease can hit at any moment. And it presents itself differently in women than men.”

Smith emphasizes the synergies between Assurance and the AHA. “At Assurance, we have a goal to minimize risk and maximize health in the workplace – we walk, talk and breathe this day in and day out – and this aligns seamlessly with the AHA’s mission,” she said. “We both have a common interest in providing programs that better educate employers to create healthier workplaces, and I aim to maximize this in my position as chair for the Go Red for Women campaign.”

Smith believes that employee wellness programs play a key role in preventing heart disease. Biometric screening in the workplace is one way to help employees become aware of their risks and symptoms. “Only 20 percent of employees get an annual physical, so screenings are very important,” she said.

Smith believes it’s important to link employee wellness programs to costs—a topic that is very much on her mind, in wake of the Moran Report that revealed hospitals are not passing along savings to payers and employers.

“Transparency in health care is a real problem, and we don’t have enough power right now to insert ourselves in the negotiation between providers and payers,” she said. “I do know that healthy employees are more productive and cost everyone less, and employee wellness programs play a key role in that.”  

Assurance puts an emphasis on employee health and wellness in the workplace by providing its employees a structured wellness program that offers specific opportunities to improve their health. Many aspects of the program encourage physical activity that promotes heart health, such as yoga and community runs/walks, but also elements like heart healthy cooking as non-physical alternatives. “We take into account that everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for another. Having a well-rounded, personalized program is key to engaging all employees.” 

The program is tied to bonuses and a points system. Based on the number of points earned, employees can get reimbursed for wellness purchases made throughout the year (up to a certain dollar amount) or elect to have money deposited into their Health Savings Account to pay for medical expenses. Assurance has a 96 percent participation rate in their wellness program. “Wellness comes from the top down – if your executive team believes in wellness, your employees will get behind you.” 

Smith and Assurance have been involved with the AHA for three years now. Like many people, Smith has a loved one who died prematurely of heart disease. “My aunt was in remission from cancer and her death underscores the importance of the AHA’s research on how heart disease can strike while you are battling another disease,” Smith said.

Chicago’s Go Red for Women campaign is a year-round movement that includes the annual Go Red for Women Executive Luncheon, Hard Hats with Heart and the Go Red Goes STEM event, a daylong event that aims to inspire and empower high school girls to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by considering careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

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Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. Cardiovascular diseases in the U.S. kill approximately one woman every 80 seconds. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events may be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Go Red for Women advocates for more research and swifter action for women's heart health.