Trish Salomon: Enriching Lives through a Healthy Workplace

Trish Salomon, MS, RD, CD, MA

The health screening was expected to be a routine procedure — something thousands of employees at the Bemis Company, Inc. complete to get health benefits. But when a man from the Oshkosh, Wis., facility had his blood pressure checked, the nurse was alarmed.

You need to go to the emergency room immediately, he was told. Later, the man learned he might have been minutes away from a stroke or heart attack. That life-changing moment in 2008 was thanks in part to Trish Salomon, the wellness manager at Bemis.

With her teamwork, the company has become a leader in employee wellness, offering reimbursements for multiple gym visits, covering costs of preventive doctor visits, replacing office candy bowls with fruit and starting fitness challenges. In September 2012, Bemis — with 78 facilities in a dozen countries — completed wellness screenings for 14,000 employees and spouses in the U.S.

"The financial impact has been significant," Salomon says of her company's benefit. "But what's really impactful for me is to hear testimonials from employees and how the wellness program has changed their lives."

Salomon graduated with a degree in nutrition from Loyola University Chicago and earned a master's degree in health communication from Boston University. She spent five years as a clinical dietitian and said her early roles made her realize how many illnesses could be prevented with better lifestyle choices. She also saw how short a patient's hospital stay could be and knew it was essential to deliver wellness messages through other avenues.

In 2001, Salomon was hired to start the wellness program at Bemis. She's also vice chair of the Well Oshkosh Task Force, where she hopes to help the city and Fox Valley area reach standards set by the Wellness Council of America. The pilot program Salomon organized at Bemis' Oshkosh facility helped high-risk employees become low-risk and she received approval to launch it company-wide. Now 95 percent of all Bemis employees in the U.S. have their blood pressure checked and undergo cholesterol and diabetes screenings as part of annual biometric testing. "I'm really fortunate to work for a company that had thought leaders with the foresight to understand that wellness was important," says Salomon.

The man saved by the health screening is only one of many life-changing stories she has heard. A parent said he can finally run and play with his kids instead of standing on the sidelines. Another employee is now off medications that were a health and financial burden. A man said he was able to tie his own shoes for the first time in years.

Salomon has heard co-workers say they now plan to live long enough to watch their grandchildren grow up. "It gives me chills just thinking about it," she says.

Casey McNerthney