High blood pressure, other issues plague workers in the Aspen area

Jan 5, 2016

Credit Elise Thatcher

  The Valley Health Alliance is reviewing new information showing the top three medical problems workers are dealing with. A recent report looks at health fair data from workers with the City of Aspen, Pitkin County, Aspen Valley Hospital, and the Aspen School District.

Kathleen Killion is Executive Director of the Alliance, which also includes the Aspen Skiing Company. “The three top issues the VHA community faces are high blood pressure,” she said Tuesday, “body mass index, and hyperlipidemia-- high cholesterol.” Of the nearly six hundred participants, 60% have problems with high blood pressure, 48% don’t have a good BMI, and 40% have cholesterol that’s too high.

“They are all very manageable, that’s the good news,” says Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock. He’s also VHA’s Board Chair, and says a variety of factors could be contributing to the top issues. Common threads are likely diet and stress, and an aging workforce may also be playing a role.

Representatives of Aspen Valley Hospital and the City of Aspen say they’re not surprised by the top three health risks. “We do look at this data,” says the hospital’s Human Resource Director Alicia Miller. “That’s how we’ll make... program changes over the coming years to increase participation.” Miller is referring to the hospital’s seasoned wellness program, and the City of Aspen also has one. Both organizations are looking forward to what the VHA is doing next about employees struggling with lots of health problems.

“For those [workers] that have multiple risk factors and fall into high risk category for developing chronic issues or serious health conditions,” Peacock explained Tuesday, “that’s the opportunity to step in and try to take some preventative measures with a professional health coach.”

Meaning, they might get a gentle intervention. A health coach is being hired now and will be paired with Mind Springs Health, to make sure employers don’t know which workers might get a phone call about their health.

With work and homelife traditionally separate, that might sound scary. Peacock says everything will be done to keep it confidential. “I may be one of the people that gets reached out to,” he laughs. “And so our goal is to try and provide that resource while maintaining that level of privacy.”