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February 15, 2016 2016 Business Leaders of the Year

Corporate Citizen: Fallon Health

Richard Burke, interim president and CEO of Fallon Health, said proper diet and healthy eating are among his top community priorities.

For a lot of companies, being a good corporate citizen means two separate things: conducting business ethically and giving back generously within the cities and towns where they operate. For Worcester-based Fallon Health, these two missions are inextricably tangled.

“Our mission as a company is making our communities healthy,” said Richard Burke, Fallon's interim president and CEO.

As a nonprofit insurance provider, that means working with businesses to devise the best health plans for their employees and working with members to help prevent illness and provide appropriate care. Fallon plan members can take advantage of a 24/7 phone line to speak with a nurse about health issues, and they can opt for text message systems to help them quit smoking or managed chronic health conditions.

As a supporter of its local communities, the mission of keeping people healthy means a special focus on hunger relief.

“We spent time assessing the needs in the community, and this rose to a very high level,” Burke said. “Healthy living starts with healthy eating. Many people don't have the benefit of being able to afford the right kind of food to live on.”

So Fallon employees participate in food drives, host an annual golf tournament to benefit causes related to hunger, and volunteer to help out with local food pantries. In late January, Burke and other Fallon senior executives helped serve a meal at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Worcester.

Fallon reports its total donations in cash and other resources to groups in the various communities it served totals more than $1 million each year.

Fallon has an information center in Shrewsbury's White City Shopping Plaza, opened in 2012, where staff answer community members' questions about health insurance. It offers health and wellness programs including smoking cessation, stress management and healthy lifestyle sessions to the general community. In 2014, Fallon reported 9,800 people attended the programs.

Together with the city of Worcester and UMass Memorial Health Care, Fallon is part of a new project to improve the health of city residents by 2020. The groups have already done an assessment that points to specific needs including good access to health care, healthy foods and a clean environment. They're now developing a work plan to continue the project.

Fallon works together closely with many partners in the Worcester area. Tim Garvin, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, said Fallon's service to the community includes donations to the United Way and affiliated organizations, as well as volunteer work with the organization's annual Day of Caring.

Garvin said Fallon executives and workers have a deep local knowledge that makes them especially valuable to the community.

“They bring an expertise that helps our United Way and our board know more and be better,” Garvin said. “It's a perfect symbiotic relationship.”

In addition to flexible work options, maternity and paternity leave, and a bank of three weeks of paid time off plus holidays, employees get eight hours of paid time each year to work on community service projects. Burke said encouraging employees to volunteer is another win-win for Fallon.

“People want to work someplace they know the company they work for cares – cares about the community, cares about them,” Burke said.

In an anonymous survey Fallon conducted, 95 percent of its employees said they believe in Fallon's mission and are willing to go the extra mile for their employer.

Burke takes that number as both a confirmation the organization is doing something right and a sign that it workers are ready and willing to serve its customers well.

Burke said Fallon tries to support all the communities where it operates, but it places a special emphasis on its home city.

“Worcester is special to us,” he said. “This is our home. We were founded here.”

Read about the other 2016 Business Leaders of the Year:

Entrepreneurial Business Leader: Michael Covino

Nonprofit Business Leader: Edward H. Moore

Large Business Leader: Elaine Osgood


2016 Business Leaders of the Year Corporate Citizen Award: Fallon Health

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