Sam Swope Goes Red for Heart Health

Courtesy Photo.

Courtesy Photo.

By TODD ZEIGLER
Staff Writer

Work is no longer just a nine-to-five section of the day. It’s a lifestyle. For both their employees and customers, Patti Swope and the Sam Swope Auto Group intend on making it a healthy one.

On Friday, Feb. 7, Swope and the auto group’s associates will gather at Sam Swope Infiniti off Hurstbourne Parkway to pose for their second annual “Red Out” group photo, all wearing crimson as they “Go Red” to show support for womens’ heart health on National Wear Red Day. Additionally, all Sam Swope dealerships across the auto group will participate in the “Red Out” by making a $50 donation to the American Heart Association for each vehicle sold Feb. 7.

The initiative is part of a month-long February campaign to raise awareness among employees and customers about heart health and better health in general.

Automotive sales is a stressful business that generates a substantial amount of smokers in the workforce. Swope and Ken Gelley, Vice President of Human Resources for the auto group, hope to raise awareness among associates about a disease that often isn’t detected until it is too late.

“Heart disease is known as the “silent killer,” says Patti Swope, chairman of Sam Swope Auto Group. “It doesn’t pop up until it’s serious. You have to take care of your heart.”

Health issues are no small matter for the Kentuckiana region. Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation at 28.3 percent of the adult population, with more than 930,000 adult smokers in the state, according to the United Health Foundation. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States, ending more lives than all forms of deadly cancer combined.

Health consciousness is not limited to one month a year at Swope dealerships. Gelley says that the company tries to support the American Heart Association beyond National Wear Red Day.

The company supported the American Heart Association last September for its annual Kentuckiana Heart Walk across the Second Street bridge. A Sam Swope vehicle led the walk – “parade-style,” Swope says – which raised $950,000 for research. The auto group also provides opportunities such as “Jeans Fridays” for employees who make a donation to the AHA and encourages supporting the organization throughout the year.

“Our people really got involved for the cause,” Swope says.

The larger cause of good health is something Swope has made a major part of the workplace.

“We’ve been doing wellness programs for a number of years,” Swope says. “They’ve gotten good response among our associates.”

Sam Swope Auto Group has tailored health programs to fit the work environment of its sales associates and staff. For a group of employees consistently on their feet throughout the workday, the company has distributed pedometers to enable them to track their steps. They can log onto a website to track their trek and earn prizes for their performance.

In the past, the company used Virgin HealthMiles, an online resource center for fitness goals, activities and tools now known as Virgin Pulse, to encourage good health practices in its employees. Gelley says Sam Swope Auto Group is in the process of transferring to a different program through the AHA that can incorporate other program elements into an overall approach to health.

“We’re going with a full-blown wellness program,” Gelley says. “We have had health fairs for the past several years and will offer features such as health club discounting, buddy systems, lunch walks to track employee progress and promoting healthy eating.”

Gelley says that health programs have been successful in the past at catching issues such as high blood pressure and symptoms of early-onset diabetes. He says the health fairs have gotten people to go see their doctor on a regular basis.

Another issue that health fairs bring to light is obesity. “It’s a wakeup call to get up on the scale and see that sucker spin,” Gelley says. “They say, ‘This has got to change.’ And it has helped. We’re really ramping up and helping with healthy eating.”

From the business side, Gelley says that Sam Swope Auto Group’s goal is to cut health costs. With a self-funded health plan, a drop in claims means a drop in premiums for everyone. In practical terms, the goal is simple a healthier staff of employees.

“The larger goal is helping the unhealthy get healthier,” Gelley says. “To help them get on a path to a healthier path to never have to deal with major health issues.”