AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: Preventure Inc. offers services that include screenings, health-risk assessments and wellness-incentive programs. Pictured above, from left, are: Senior Vice President of Operations Kathy O’Neel-Webster, CEO Mark Correia and Chief Business Development Officer Laura Walmsley.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
By Patrick Anderson PBN Staff Writer
Businesses from a wide range of industries have expanded into the growing health and wellness sector in recent years, so it’s an obvious avenue for a fitness marketing company.
What started as the International Fitness Club Network, a company linking corporate clients to thousands of gyms across the country, is now Preventure Inc., a comprehensive provider of employer wellness services.
The expansion from fitness into a broader slice of the health care arena has paved the way for significant growth at the Coventry-based firm, which has posted an average 30 percent revenue growth over the past four years and tripled its workforce.
Rebranded Preventure in 2006, the company now offers screenings, health risk assessments, wellness-incentive programs, digital health management tools and lifestyle coaching, to go along with fitness benefits.
All of the offerings are pegged to the surging interest among companies to make their workforce healthier and, as a result, less expensive.
“Companies offer wellness for the purpose of lowering health care costs,” said Preventure CEO Mark D. Correia. “Healthier employees have lower costs, are absent less, have higher morale and are more productive. For all those reasons, the health care issue is driving executives to think how they can help their employees to live healthier lifestyles.”
International Fitness Club Network was started in 1984 by Preventure co-owner Dave Pickering, as a kind of marketing arm for gyms that sold discount memberships to corporations.
The system allowed the companies to offer memberships to workers as a benefit at a price below what they would normally be able to get. And the gyms would get access to a much broader range of potential customers than they could reach with traditional marketing.
Through the 1990s, Correia was working for another fitness company, called Healthtrax, but in 2001 decided to join up with Pickering, an old college friend, at International Fitness Club Network.
As he began selling fitness memberships, Correia said clients, most of them self-insured, would often ask if they provided other services, suggesting there was a market for more than just gym access.
“When clients were asking what else [we did], we said, ‘What do you want us to do?’ ” Correia said. “That’s when we started branching into wellness. What we found with large corporations is the industry was very disjointed. They had multiple vendors for different wellness services.”
That sense of unmet demand prompted Correia and Pickering to try to combine previously separate wellness services and offer corporate clients a one-stop shop for benefits.
Accompanying the newfound corporate focus on employee wellness is an increasing sophistication in the tools and used to nudge workers in a healthier direction.
Preventure now works with companies on customizable incentive plans and reward systems to increase employee engagement.
As with many things, management of these benefits has migrated online and toward mobile devices, prompting Preventure to expand its information technology capacity.
Whatever range of wellness products clients choose, their workers can manage them through a customized, digital “wellness portal.”
“It all starts with getting employees to participate,” Correia said. “Step one is finding out where their risks are so that we can educate them on those risks and take steps to mitigate them. There is social networking, challenges and incentives that vary from client to client.”
The motivation for companies to improve the health of their workforce is clear, but less obvious is whether the message is getting through to employees.
Correia thinks it is.
“Yes, they are demanding it – they want to participate,” Correia said. “Most people are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and we have to make it easier for them. … It is about the employer helping you, not punishing you for what you don’t do.”
Preventure has clients in half of the states and is focused nationally, giving it only minimum exposure to Rhode Island’s slow recovery.
Looking ahead, Correia expects companies will realize the benefits of employee wellness not only for cost savings but the positive impact on worker motivation.
“We see wellness as a way to get employee engagement,” Correia said. “It is a fast-food world and it is not easy to live a healthy lifestyle, but what we do is we chip away at it and try to make it as fun and rewarding as possible.” •
OWNERS: Dave Pickering and Mark Correia
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Corporate health and wellness provider