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GBCHealth Case Study of the Month Newsletter | Novartis


NovartisIn the year since the UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the GBCHealth Case Study of the Month Series has highlighted the range of ways in which our members are engaging in the NCD space, applying lessons learned from work on communicable diseases and building on existing workplace programs. This month GBCHealth presents Be Healthy, Novartis’ company-wide health and well-being initiative. The Be Healthy program helps employees reach an optimal level of health and well-being through a combination of physical fitness, nutrition, health screenings and disease management.

This case study, like many in this NCD series, highlights the importance of local input into health initiatives. The Be Healthy program sets company-wide standards and provides all participating sites with a wellness tool kit. However, each site is empowered to tailor programs and offerings to the local culture and context, improving ownership and uptake.

As Novartis’ case study demonstrates, the impact of NCDs on the global community, and workforces in particular, is real and there are many opportunities for businesses to have a significant positive impact. We hope you are able to draw on the critical success factors and lessons learned that Novartis and other GBCHealth members have shared to help inform your company’s wellness programs.

Case Study | Novartis' Be Healthy Program

About the Program

Novartis' Be Healthy Program

Be Healthy is the first company-wide health and well-being initiative intended to benefit all of Novartis Group company employees. Novartis believes that employees are an integral part of a company’s success and that a healthy workforce underpins business growth and innovation.

At the 2011 World Economic Forum, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), challenged companies to improve the health of their employees. Evidence presented by the World Economic Forum shows that workplace health and well-being programs addressing lifestyle changes can help prevent up to 40% of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancer and lung disorders. NCDs are among the top 10 causes of death globally and key contributors to global health care costs.

Nutrition counseling is available to employees

Novartis launched Be Healthy in 2011 in 76 of its largest locations across 32 countries, spanning from Mumbai to Beijing to Sao Paulo to New Jersey, and reaching 80% of employees. In 2012, the initiative has expanded to 100 new locations, reaching at least 95% of the workforce or about 115,000 people in more than 50 countries.

Be Healthy helps employees take charge of their personal health by placing a strong focus on illness prevention. Specifically, the program focuses on four pillars that aim to help employees achieve optimal health: MOVE, CHOOSE, KNOW and MANAGE.

MOVE: The program encourages employees to participate in a range of physical fitness activities, including pedometer competitions where associates compete to walk the most steps, with the goal of reaching the WHO-recommended 10,000 steps a day; ping-pong matches, yoga classes, Novartis Cup events – including soccer and cricket games – and exercise classes both on-site and at outside gyms. Novartis’ site in Italy, for example, has brought in martial artists to lead tai chi, yoga and judo.

Employees in Hyderabad, India take part in a

CHOOSE: Be Healthy helps employees choose nutritious foods through low-cost, healthy meals and information about eating well. In all on-site Novartis cafeterias and restaurants, the healthiest meal is also the cheapest meal on the menu. Some sites hand out free, healthy snacks such as fresh seasonal fruit to encourage better eating habits.

KNOW: The program offers employees free on-site health screenings for key health indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index and cholesterol. In addition, Be Healthy’s iPhone and iPad app helps associates and their families track and manage their health and well-being data.

MANAGE: Be Healthy provides support and information to employees faced with chronic illness or disabilities, allowing them to manage their health effectively. This includes creating personalized plans to help ill or disabled associates stay at work or return to work if they wish to do so as well as free, confidential counseling and referral services from Employee Assistance Programs. For example, the Novartis headquarters site in Basel, Switzerland is running a pilot program to help associates with Multiple Sclerosis stay in the workforce. Research has shown that MS patients tend to have better health outcomes if they can stay productively working and the company has the benefit of keeping a valued employee on the job.

Eye exams are part of the Be Healthy workplace program

Each year, Novartis locations worldwide will participate in “Be Healthy Celebration Week”-- five days of health and well-being activities, including free health checks, exercise classes and healthy foods.

  • Novartis sets Be Healthy standards on a company-wide level and provides all sites with a tool kit on the program. But because the health programs are designed and implemented by local teams, each program is tailored to appeal to employees based on local culture and interests.

  • Be Healthy was recently featured in CNBC’s Responsible Business Television series. Watch the video

Critical Success Factors

Novartis employees in Canada exercise outside

Innovative communications: Health promotion communications provide fun, upbeat messaging about how to live a healthier lifestyle at home and work – in place of traditional, dry medical information -- and practical, easy-to-implement tips for improving one’s health. In addition, a single eye-catching brand for Be Healthy helps employees easily identify health promotion activities taking place anywhere across the company.

Leadership support: Be Healthy was launched and championed by Novartis’ CEO Joseph Jimenez – who is committed to health and well-being for all Novartis associates — together with the Novartis leadership team. With this strong support, sites worldwide were encouraged to put resources behind implementing the program.

Diversity in a global campaign: Programs are tailored for unique local conditions, partnering with local health insurers, associations and governments to make activities more successful and cost effective. Local implementation has led to local ownership and long-term sustainability, along with respect for diversity.

Lessons Learned

The Be Healthy program in Mexico

Encourage friendly competition: In Novartis’ performance-oriented culture, health-focused interventions – particularly those in the Move pillar – were more successful when they incorporated some element of competition, such as the sports matches, between individuals, groups or even with one’s self.

Evaluate regularly and share best practices: In 2011, the Corporate Team audited 55% of Be Healthy sites. Be Healthy team members share best practices from other sites during audit discussions. Be Healthy also tracks participation in all aspects of the program to see which services are being used and where improvements can be made. These audits and best practices are shared so Novartis sites can learn from one another.

The right key performance indicators (KPIs) lead to the right program: An important KPI for Be Healthy is the Novartis absentee rate. The expectation is that by helping employees lead healthier lifestyles, Be Healthy will also lead to fewer days of work absence due to illness – a win-win for staff and for Novartis.

Next Steps

Employees in China practice yoga in the office

Increasing participation is a long-term process and a stated goal: By the end of 2012, Be Healthy will be offered to 95% of Novartis Group company employees on a voluntary basis. As with most voluntary health promotion activities, it is relatively easy to encourage the first 20% of any population to join in. The focus for Be Healthy in future years is to tailor activities and benefits to have greater appeal to the other 80% who have not yet taken advantage of the health activities, including a good portion of Novartis’ large sales representative population who are not based at any one particular site and frequently spend the majority of their day driving.

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Learn More

Case Study: Chevron's Cardiovascular Health Program | Read more

Case Study: Royal Dutch Shell's Be Well Program | Read more

Report: GBCHealth and FTI Consulting's report on trends in corporate non-communicable disease initiatives | Read the key takeaways and report

Does your company have a workplace wellness program? Let us know! Please share your experiences with us by filling out a brief online survey (10-20 minutes). For more information, please contact Joya Banerjee at

Keynote: Get expert insight into wellness from Dr. Dean Ornish with this keynote address from the 2012 GBCHealth conference. | Watch the video