The City of Scottsdale has launched a program to protect the health and well-being of its firefighters in collaboration with Cigna, the City’s health benefits partner. The new “Your Call” program provides preventive care and specialized screening tests to promote good health and to help identify potential health issues early.
Firefighters face significant on-the-job emotional stressors and physical risks that can take a toll on their overall well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, and they are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer because of the variety of chemicals they are exposed to on the job. They also have higher rates of depression and are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Your Call program aims to address these issues holistically with a focus on both body and mind.
“We are committed to the overall health and safety of our firefighters,” said Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon. “This program not only focuses on the physical health of our firefighters, but also their mental health. We are excited to offer the Your Call program to put our firefighters on a path to a healthier life and a more secure future.”
“Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect us, our families and our communities, so it’s important that we protect their health in return,” said Rodgers Wilson, M.D., medical director for Cigna in Arizona. “The Your Call program is a proactive approach to health care that provides behavioral screening and clinical testing that can help prevent and detect potential life-threatening illnesses before symptoms may even occur.”
The collaborative effort includes HonorHealth, which has four primary care doctors dedicated to the program. At the first appointment, they run a series of tests at no cost to the patient that evaluate the unique health risks that firefighters face. This establishes a baseline so that results can be tracked over time. Depending on the results, doctors guide the firefighter on a specific care path. Testing and screening results are confidential and do not affect a firefighter’s fit-for-duty status.
The City launched the Your Call program in March, following a pilot program conducted in 2020.
Captain Brian Dutcher, a paramedic and pilot program participant, noted that the Your Call program is especially beneficial to younger firefighters. “They can start early, track their health year over year, and then hopefully retire healthy,” Dutcher said.
Dutcher also noted that the program provides specific guidance tailored to the needs of the individual firefighter. “You walk away with something tangible. For example, if you have back pain, you get advice on how to improve your physical strength and minimize the risk of back injury.”
Engineer and paramedic Nick Pajic, Jr., appreciates the program’s holistic approach to health and well-being. “Wearing all of that heavy equipment really takes a toll on a firefighter’s body, and the job requires a lot of mental focus in addition to physical strength. Rest is also important to staying healthy,” Pajic said.
Pajic noted that Your Call is personalized and focused on safety and health improvement, which makes it appealing to firefighters.
“The fit-for-duty exam is stressful because firefighters are worried about losing their ability to do the job they love. But Your Call is all about how to get better, how to build core strength. My exam was focused on me as a person and helped me with practical advice, like tips on proper lifting,” Pajic said.
Cigna hopes that the Scottsdale program is just the beginning of a much broader effort. “Our goal is to build on our success in Scottsdale and eventually roll out this program to other firefighters throughout the United States, and possibly adapt it to meet the needs of other first responders,” Cigna’s Dr. Wilson said.