Wellness is a department of its own at McCormick & Co., where about 2,400 of more than 3,000 domestic employees work at the headquarters in Hunt Valley. The spice maker began expanding wellness offerings a couple of years ago to focus more on preventive care.

Its Hunt Valley wellness center is staffed with a medical assistant, a part-time physician and a part-time nutritionist who offers counseling. Employees can go for annual company-paid health screenings, vaccinations, health counseling and coaching, and a health safety fair, said James Downing, director of global benefits. McCormick also sends out a monthly wellness newsletter and offers a 12-week educational fitness program that focuses on healthy eating and exercise. Other programs focus on chronic diseases.

McCormick offers private health screenings designed to identify risks and encourage individuals to connect with their doctors, Downing said.

The goal is to "keep the healthy people healthy and try to get people to stay away from being unhealthy," while keeping the company's medical cost growth flat or below the national trend, he said.

"We have seen that over the last three years," Downing said.

About 10 percent of the workforce at the Domino Sugars refinery in Locust Point participates in wellness programs, some of which have been in place more than a decade, said Nicole Copeland, human resources manager for the ASR Group plant. Programs include a monthly wellness newsletter and annual walking and weight-loss challenges.

Last year, "we challenged employees to maintain their weight from Thanksgiving to New Year's," she said, and this year workers who get an annual physical can get a $10 per month reduction in their benefit premiums. "Every year, we're looking at new challenges or new initiatives. People spend a lot of time at work, so we want to make certain they have opportunities to make healthy choices."

T. Rowe Price expanded beyond its traditional offerings — partial reimbursement at fitness clubs, partnerships with Weight Watchers — to "really begin taking a deeper dive into wellness" and encouraging people to be more educated about their health, said Michelle Tracy, manager of global benefits.

The financial services firm now offers on-site biometric screenings and health assessments and uses the information to shape programs. For instance, the company delivered apples to office pantries last fall alongside posters alerting workers that most people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables.

"It's softly presenting information," Tracy said. "We're not saying you should eat more fruits and vegetables, we're just saying 91 percent of us don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, and here's a piece of fruit."

Smith, the 1st Mariner vice president, had struggled with her weight for many years before she and her daughter went on a Medifast program in 2012.

Medifast, which is based in Owings Mills, customized a program for 1st Mariner, giving employees the option of going to a Medifast center, ordering products online or working with a volunteer health coach, said Brian Lloyd, executive vice president of international and business development.

Employees are reimbursed up to $300 per month for two months. About 70 joined the program and about half continued it after the first two months, Lloyd said. Eight people lost more than 30 pounds each and five lost more than 50.

Smith's weight loss has corrected problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and developing diabetes. She can sit comfortably in an airplane seat and no longer shops in the plus-size section at clothing stores.

Beyond the physical changes, "I feel like I'm not negative any more. I have a better outlook on life," Smith said. "I'm able to dream about the things you never thought possible … and I can achieve those now."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com