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Some employers believe in screening mammography so strongly they have instituted onsite programs to facilitate participation.

According to a survey conducted last year by Hewitt Associates L.L.C., 36% of 935 large employers that had some type of health prevention, promotion or early intervention initiative offered onsite mammography screenings.

"There's a consistent level of interest" in onsite mammography, said Camille Haltom, a consultant with Hewitt Associates. "It's a wonderful convenience benefit."

Onsite screening is "a terrific idea-it's clearly the way to go," commented Jerry Lanoux, a principal in the Boston office of Buck Consultants Inc. "It really heightens employees' awareness."

Robert L. Bonin, manager of benefits administration for First Chicago NBD Corp. in Chicago, said that the bank's on-site mammography screening initiative "has been a phenomenally successful program.

"It's been perceived (by employees) as the bank doing something for me," he added.

"By making the service convenient to people, we've made it easier to get the care, and more people get it," he said.

First Chicago has conducted onsite mammography screenings since 1991; since then some 5,000 mammograms have been done for the company's employees, dependents and retirees covered under the health plan, according to Mr. Bonin.

The bank, which has spent approximately $100,000 annually on the program, offered free mammograms for women covered by any First Chicago health plan. The First Chicago plan also covers routine mammograms taken elsewhere.

First Chicago for the past five years has brought in mobile mammography units to most large locations at least once a year, Mr. Bonin said.

But, the program is on hold for now because the radiology group that First Chicago had contracted with in Chicago no longer performs mobile mammography, according to Mr. Bonin. The bank is considering how to continue the onsite mammography program as well as several alternatives to onsite mammography, such as giving women covered by a bank health plan a voucher for a mammogram at different locations.

Champion International Corp. began offering onsite mammography screenings in 1993, said Howard Kraft, manager of corporate health services for the

Stamford, Conn.-based forest products company.

Champion contracts with preferred providers to perform onsite mammograms at many of its mills for covered employees, dependents and retirees, Mr. Kraft noted. In some remote locations, women must go to a medical office for the mammogram.

"Overall, doing screenings and immunizations on site for employees increases participation, and we want a high participation rate," he said.

"It's not just the nice thing to do; it's a good business decision and it's good risk management," he added.

Zeneca Inc., a pharmaceutical manufacturer and health care services supplier based in Wilmington, Del., has offered onsite screening for more than seven years. During that time, the company has performed more than

2,500 mammograms and detected breast cancer in 12 women. As of late last year, Zeneca had spent about $400,000 on the program.

Zeneca owns mammography equipment and performs mammograms free of charge for employees. Zeneca produces worksite breast cancer education programs for other employers.