Area employers learn low cost ways to help employees stay healthy on the job

Last week, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) announced that California’s obesity rates have nearly doubled in the last six years, costing the state an estimated $41 billion a year, and $1.7 billion in Sacramento alone.

While the statistics are discouraging, several local organizations are working to change people’s eating and exercising habits through low-cost programs in the workplace. Today, close to 100 employers from throughout the region gathered for a free seminar on why worksite wellness strategies are important, and how they can be implemented for little to no cost.

Organized by Wells Fargo Insurance Services, the Network for a Healthy California—Gold Country Region Worksite Program and the American Cancer Society Workplace Solutions, the event kicked off with a keynote by Dr. Tom Hopkins. Hopkins, a local physician and Chief Medical Correspondent for KCRA, gave the audience a clear picture on how an unhealthy workplace can negatively impact a company. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, about 2% of capital spent on workforce is lost to disability, absenteeism, and presenteeism caused by chronic diseases; and an equal amount is spent on the direct costs of healthcare.

“Keeping people well saves money,” said Hopkins, who went on to provide tips employers can use to empower employees to stay healthy. His advice included education, intervention, screening and tracking progress. He emphasized tracking progress as a key component to long term success, and the most commonly forgotten element by many employers.

During the event, several other presenters offered their advice on how employers can transform their workplaces.

Lynnette Kaminski, Director of Service Excellence for Wells Fargo Insurance Services, advised attendees to start small. According to her, many individuals and companies attempt to make huge changes in small amounts of time, resulting in no long term change. “Your first objective should be…don’t get worse,” she said.

She also advised workplaces to make their wellness activities team oriented. “In order for behavior change to stick, it must have a social connection.”

Companies desiring a more turn-key approach to offering worksite wellness programs were also offered several options during the two-and-a-half hour seminar. Vita Sarginson, Corporate Relations Manager for the American Cancer Society Workplace Solutions, and Mai Linh Thompkins from the Health Education Council, each spoke about the many free resources available online or through their websites.
 

"We have the power to save lives,” Thompkins said as she reminded the audience that employees spend 1/3 of their day in the workplace. By making even a small investment at work, employers could see large payoffs in their staff’s overall health and the bottom line.
Thompkins shared details about the Network for a Healthy California’s Fit Business Kit, now implemented at over 125 California businesses. Tools inside the kit include a customized action plan, instructions on starting a wellness committee and walking club, along with details on produce deliveries, healthy vending machines and starting the Take Action! 10-week challenge.

Maria Mariscol from SupHerb Farms in Turlock, spoke about her experience using the Network’s Take Action! Wellness challenge. Their employees, while resistant at first, came to enjoy the free nutrition classes, healthy food demonstrations and vending machine choices, and physical activities such as on-site yoga. The company also recently built a new gourmet demonstration kitchen, which is sometimes used by staff to cook healthy lunches and hold healthy cooking demonstrations.

Representatives from the City of West Sacramento, Sutter Connect and Pacific Coast Building Products Inc. also attended the seminar, speaking on their own challenges and successes implementing wellness programs.
 

Companies interested in implementing a wellness program at their place of work can contact Mai Linh Tompkins at (916) 556-3344 x 122, or visit www.healthedcouncil.org.
 

**Full Disclosure: Lesley Miller works for 3Fold Communications, a full service marketing agency in Midtown, Sacramento. The Health Education Council is a paying client at 3Fold.

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July 17, 2009 | 6:31 PM

One of the most cost-effective and ecologically benevolent choices employees could make is to use a bicycle to get to work. Sacramento is flat! I ride every single day and eat every single thing I want and have an excellent BMI, an excellent mental outlook, and know I am one of the people making a choice to change our environment for the better. Habits are hard to change but they are just that–habits. As I ride along on these terrible air days, I see an average of 9 out of 10 cars containing ONE SINGLE occupant.

If more employers would offer the proper facilities for employees to store bikes and provide showers/lockers, the whole equation would change. With the route cuts and fare hikes in Regional Transit, the ability to use pedal power must be emphasized. Until we each feel an individual responsibility to change, nothing will transform, including the abhorrent state of our air or the deplorable health of our bodies.

July 20, 2009 | 11:24 AM

I completely agree. I ride to work at least 2-3 days a week (depending on the weather) and have found its faster, cheaper and better for me than a car or public transit. At this event, several employers talked about installing bike “garages” for their employees, and offering on-site showers to encourage people to bike.

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