By Joe Buttweiler
MASON CITY ñ Rebecca Meyer of Des Moines, who lost 140 pounds on the TV show “The Biggest Loser,” will be a keynote speaker at the My Comprehensive Wellness Conference and Expo on Feb. 22 in Mason City.
She and the Rev. Nick Mezacapa, an Episcopal priest from Rochester, will be among more than a dozen speakers and presenters at the event, which will share resources to local businesses for creating health and wellness programs, said Jason Saffold, president of My Comprehensive Wellness.
The new health-focused company, which opened in October in downtown Mason City, is a resource to help businesses, individuals and the entire community improve their health not just in terms of physical fitness, but in seven other areas ñ financial, social, spiritual, cultural, occupational, environmental and intellectual.
“The Comprehensive Wellness conference is our kickoff event,” Saffold said. “We’ve invited businesses to come and get the tools they need” to launch wellness programs or expand the ones they already have, he said.
With the current uncertainty about the direction of health care insurance, many small business owners are wondering what to do with their employee health plans if they have one already, or whether to begin one if they don’t, Saffold said.
While it’s generally better for a business to have a solid health insurance program ñ it helps retain employees, increase productivity and reduce absenteeism — a good wellness program can cut down expenses for both the employer and the employee, he said.
Saffold said he based the business on many of the self-improvement tips he learned personally, having struggled in the past with weight, debt and grief over the loss of a brother.
He came to Mason City about five years ago, transferred by a temp staffing agency. When that relationship ended he decided to focus on healthcare and wellness as they’re topics many companies and individuals are struggling with.
While about 66 percent of large businesses have a wellness program, only 40 percent of those with 50 to 200 employees have one, and only 16 percent of those with 49 or fewer employees have one, Saffold said.
“Insurance companies have already raised their rates 130 percent over the past decade, and this year they’re raising them an additional 10 percent to 45 percent,” he said.
Businesses are paying an average of $7,000 per employee per year. It’s eating into their ability to be profitable and stay open. Some are considering dropping their health insurance programs. “But I take the long view,” he said. “If you don’t offer these benefits you lose employee loyalty and morale.”
Businesses that have implemented robust wellness programs have found significant reductions in healthcare costs and absenteeism, and increases in productivity and professional development, Saffold said.
My Comprehensive Wellness, which is housed in the Main Street Mason City office, 7 N. Federal Ave., has worked with the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health to put together guidelines for businesses to improve wellness among their employees.
Meyer, who lost about half her body weight during season 8 of “The Biggest Loser,” was the At-Home winner of the show. She currently trains and trains others in Des Moines.
Other speakers at the conference will include Robin Edgar of Edgar Financial; Diane Arndt of Reflections Salon, speaking on social fitness; the founder of the Zola Diet; Kris Meyer, on intellectual fitness; Jason Mead of Kaplan University; and Bob Graham, community development director for the city of Albert Lea.
Tickets and details for the conference, which will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Clarion Inn in Mason City, are available at mycwellness.com. They cost $69 through Feb. 17 or $99 at the door.
Tickets for admission to the expo are also available on the site and cost $5 in advance, or $7 at the door. Expo participants include 360 Fitness, Salon 220, Zango, chiropractor Scott Nelson, the Cerro Gordo Department of Public Health.
Saffold said similar conferences are planned for March 8 in Ames and March 29 in Waterloo, and monthly seminars on wellness topics will be offered throughout North Iowa.
He said he eventually plans to convert the business to nonprofit status and to offer similar programs regionally and throughout the country.|