Worksite-wellness program benefits us all

We spend one-third of our lives at work. Whether that’s a depressing or exhilarating statistic for you, it’s an important piece in the puzzle of how to increase health and reduce heart disease in our community. That’s why San Juan Basin Health developed a worksite-wellness program and received funding from the Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grants Program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement it.

Worksite wellness, as defined by CDPHE, is “an organized program in the worksite that is intended to assist employees and their family members in making voluntary behavior changes which reduce their health and injury risk, improve their health consumer skills and enhance their individual productivity and well-being.”

As an employee, such a program can greatly assist in making healthier choices regarding nutrition, exercise and other decisions, such as how to manage stress. As an employer, it’s advantageous to offer worksite-wellness program because it cuts sick leave, health-plan costs and worker’s compensation and disability costs by about 25 percent.

Yet because of the size of a business or other reasons, many employers find it difficult to start a wellness program. San Juan Basin Health is offering to partner with local employers to help make it easy and mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. Our worksite-wellness team can come to your workplace and provide a baseline health assessment for employees (body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and cardiac risk). Each participating employee receives a complete explanation of results and appropriate referrals to existing resources. Individual coaching on positive behavior change is provided, as well, if the employee chooses. All of this is provided for $25 per employee.

Employees also take a short survey to help the wellness team work with the employer to determine what easy steps it might take to improve the wellness environment. Examples include: improving indoor or outdoor spaces to support opportunities for physical activity; creating an employee wellness committee; implementing healthy food policies for work events; providing space for fitness equipment; supporting flexible work schedules to allow participation in wellness activities; and requiring food vendors to offer healthier selections.

Employers see many benefits from implementing a worksite-wellness program, including: a healthier, more productive workforce; reduced rates of both absenteeism and “presenteeism” (workers showing up but not performing their best because of health problems such as obesity, chronic pain, depression, etc.); and improved employee morale and increased personal responsibility for health.

And as a community, we all benefit by reduced obesity and other cardiovascular disease risk factors among working adults, particularly those who are low-income and uninsured. Because of a lack of health insurance and information about community resources, these people are at even higher risk for cardiovascular disease and its precursors, including obesity. Worksites are the ideal location to implement healthy-living activities because workplace culture, peer pressure and a “captive audience” can all contribute to success.

For more information or to sign up, call 335-2044 or visit sjbhd.org/worksite-wellness.

Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.

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