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NEW YORK, July 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association (AHA), Henry Kravis, Co-CEO and Co-Chairman of KKR & Co. L.P., Terry Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy's, Inc., and 19 additional CEOs from some of America's largest companies announced the formation of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. This groundbreaking initiative is designed to create 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 healthputting them at greater risk for heart disease and other serious illness.
The survey indicates that many people believe they are in good health, even though they actually may not be. Three-quarters of employees (74 percent) report being in very good or good health, but 42 percent of these employees have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, including high cholesterol or high blood pressure. At the same time, the survey also revealed that CEOs and senior leadership have a significant impact when it comes to getting employees engaged and reaping the benefits of workplace health programscreating a tremendous opportunity for the CEO Roundtable.
Right now, the U.S. is not a healthy nation, despite spending more on health care than any other country. Prevention is important to changing this dynamic. The members of the AHA CEO Roundtable are committed to promoting preventive care and focusing on wellness in their organizations.
"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 dayat work," said Henry Kravis. "We are taking what we knowfrom the CEO Roundtable companies, leading doctors and scientists, and this new dataand combining it with the expertise of the AHA to make a meaningful impact on our employees' health."
The members of the CEO Roundtable will be leading by example to meaningfully engage more than 2 million collective employees with the goal of creating a healthier America, beginning in the workplace. The CEOs aim to improve health by supporting employees to make simple behavior changes that produce significant results and help the AHA meet its overarching goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans 20 percent by 2020.
"Our employees are what make our company great, and their health is an important part of our success," said Terry Lundgren. "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 changesto make healthy choices and lead healthy lives. That means leading by example."
The survey results point to challenges and opportunities for individuals and the organizations where they work. Topline survey results are available here.
Select highlights include:
Employers can help when they lead by example to create a culture of health: Employees who are encouraged by senior management to participate in workplace health programs are nearly twice as likely to report improved health (61 percent vs. 34 percent), and significantly more likely to report healthy eating (60 percent vs. 33 percent), weight loss (41 percent vs. 27 percent), and reduced blood pressure (28 percent vs. 15 percent) and cholesterol (23 percent vs. 14 percent) as a result of program participation.
Workplace health programs are a win-win for employees and employers: Of employees who feel encouraged to participate in workplace health programs, 69 percent report that those programs have a strong impact on job satisfaction and 63 percent cite the availability of programs as important to staying with their current employer. Half of employees (49 percent) say that wellness programs make a company extremely or very attractive.
CEO leadership matters: More than half (55 percent) of survey respondents believe 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. The entire organization has a role to play, but encouragement and modeling from senior management is especially important.
Workplace health programs can do more: While numerous respondents report having health-related tests in the past year, many are unable to recall the results. For example, 75 percent of respondents report having their blood pressure checked in the past year, while only half can recall what their blood pressure measurement actually is. Employees at companies that offer health programs are more likely to know their biometric numbers. Employees need tools to help them better understand and monitor basic but critical measures of health.
"With the AHA CEO Roundtable, we're starting a movement to transform the culture of the workplace to meaningfully engage employees to take simple steps that can dramatically reduce their risk of heart-related death and illness," said Nancy Brown. "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. We can't wait to start bringing our ideas to practice to help build healthier work places around the country."
The AHA CEO Roundtable plans to 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.
The American Heart Association's CEO Roundtable comprises three co-chairs, including Henry Kravis, KKR & Co. L.P.; Terry Lundgren, Macy's, Inc.; and Nancy Brown, American Heart Association; and 19 members, including 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; Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark Corporation; Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company; George Paz, Express Scripts; Dr. Ralph Shrader, Booz Allen Hamilton; Randall Stephenson, AT&T; Bernard J. Tyson, Kaiser Permanente; Gregory Wasson, Walgreens; and David West, Big Heart Pet Brands.
Additional information on heart disease and stroke can be found at heart.org.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke America's No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
 The survey was conducted online between May 29 and June 10, 2014. Eligible employees included those who were employed full- or part-time in organizations with 25 or more employees that offer a health care plan.
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SOURCE The American Heart Association