Walk the talk with workplace wellness: At BCBS Mississippi, even the actuaries teach fitness classes

Published December 12, 2019

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi found its own worksite wellness program so successful, they decided to offer it to their customers, too.

Cayla Mangrum heads corporate communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi (BCBS Mississippi). Most of the time, she’s in a suit, managing a talented creative team from her glass-walled office. But once a week, she’s the “sweat row” fitness class instructor in the onsite gym.

At BCBS Mississippi, Mangrum’s the norm. Worksite wellness is practically part of everyone’s job description. And the model is spreading to employers across the state.

Wellness at work: leading by example

BCBS Mississippi asks every manager who is able to lead at least one exercise class. “We’ve got actuaries and accountants and lawyers—and you name it—that we trained and certified in group exercise classes,” says Christina Thomas, director of health and wellness services. Thomas says the goal is for managers to be leaders in health and wellness, just as much as they are in their business areas.

Employees who commit to working out twice a week benefit from improved health and a $160/month reduction in their health insurance premiums.  BCBS Mississippi’s employees are taking advantage of a wide variety of fitness activities through this program, including:

  • A full schedule of studio classes, taught by company leaders
  • A range of workout equipment
  • Onsite kinesiologists (fitness experts)
  • A soccer field
  • An extensive indoor walking track
  • Regular wellness checkups, including biometric (weight, blood pressure, etc.) data to track progress

Thomas says the program has resulted in healthier employees and lower healthcare costs. What’s more, it’s caught the attention of the health plan’s customers.

Customers saw BCBS Mississippi’s success and asked, can we try your program here too?

“We have a team of worksite wellness consultants that travel to those employers that have expressed a readiness and willingness to begin a program,” says Thomas. She says implementing one isn’t like installing a machine and flipping a switch. Building a corporate culture that embraces wellness takes time. “We start with understanding the culture and environment of each worksite, and then design a plan.” 

Employers across the state, representing more than 15,000 employees, now participate in BCBS Mississippi’s Healthy Workplace programs. Here’s what they’ve seen.

Healthy Workplace Success Infographic
Employers across the state, representing more than 15,000 employees, now participate in BCBS Mississippi's Healthy Workplace Programs. Here's what they've seen. Seventy-five percent lost inches from their waistlines. Ninety-four percent are tobacco-free. For employer groups that have been enrolled 5 years or more, employees have seen a 55% improvement in weight, a 72% improvement in blood pressure, a 90% improvement in blood sugar measurements, and a 98% improvement in cholesterol.

And for employer groups that have been enrolled five years or more, employees have seen:

  • A 55% improvement in weight (BMI)
  • A 72% improvement in blood pressure
  • A 90% improvement in blood sugar measurements
  • A 98% improvement in cholesterol 

Worksite wellness programs, says Thomas, have been most successful at companies whose leaders champion the effort, just as BCBS Mississippi’s leaders have done.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. 

To learn more about BCBS Mississippi’s Healthy Workplace program here.