Pueblo Active Community Environments (P.A.C.E.)
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Pueblo City-County Health Department Worksite Wellness

Happy New Year!  Special thanks to our first Guest Blogger in 2015!  Katie Davis, the Associate Director of Disease Prevention and Emergency Preparedness, from the Pueblo City-County Health Department, contributed the following information on their Worksite Wellness Program.  I hope this motivates others to strive for improvements and motivating tools for their employees too!  Walk and Roll, Stephanie

PCCHD Worksite Wellness

Note:  This post demonstrates not only the importance of Worksite Wellness but also the feasibility to implement in any organization.  If you are interested in more detailed information about PCCHD’s Team Wellness please contact Katie Davis, Katie.davis@co.pueblo.co.us.

At the end of 2013, it was obvious that Worksite Wellness at the Pueblo City County Health Department (PCCHD) was progressing to a new level.  The agency had included Worksite Wellness as a priority in the Strategic Plan and was notified of a grant funding award from Kaiser Permanente for increasing Active Transportation among employees. 2014 was going to be phenomenal! Looking back…. it definitely has been.

A little history: Worksite Wellness has been a part of PCCHD for many years, but mostly as activities thrown together by a few dedicated health educators with very little formality.  In 2012 a committee, Team Wellness, was formed with representation from each division within the agency. The team met on a monthly basis with a goal to educate and challenge employees to live a healthy and active lifestyle.  At that time, the committee had very little funding, no evaluation of activities, and little support from leadership, and therefore struggled with success.

How things have changed: Late in 2013 Team Wellness developed an action plan associated with the agency Strategic Plan which formalized the activities and held the committee accountable.  Then in December of 2013, the award letter from Kaiser Permanente brightened the horizon for the group trying to make a positive difference.

The primary focus areas for Team Wellness are consistent education/information, employee health challenges with incentives, active transportation, and opening/maintaining an employee exercise room.  Below are brief descriptions of what was done:

1.  Educational/informational:  Quarterly newsletter was posted in several areas of the building, email to staff about upcoming events and general health education, lunch-n-learns representing the 7 Dimensions of Wellness, and the first agency Day of Health (biometric screenings and seminars).

2.  Challenges:  The goal for the employee health challenges was to increase healthy eating and active living.  To help participants with motivation, incentives were given to those individuals or teams that performed the best or made significant behavior changes throughout the challenges.  Examples of challenges:

Live Healthy America Challenge -online, 10-week challenge to achieve fitness and weight loss goals.

Water Challenge -increasing water intake while experimenting with flavoring water with fruit.

Walk Across America Challenge -increasing steps during the workday). 

We learned quickly staff are quite competitive!

3.  Exercise Room:  This was a challenge in itself!  Senior management agreed to turn one of the conference rooms in the building into an exercise room.  Equipment for the room was purchased through funding raised during the construction of the new health department building in 2009. It took a lot of work, but the doors opened to staff on November 1st!  The room has 2 treadmills, 1 elliptical, as well as dumbbells, yoga mats, etc.  The room can only be used by employees around work hours, yet so far it has been a phenomenal success.  Some employees use the equipment before or after work, some just during their 15 minute break.

4.  Active Transportation: Walking and/or bicycling to work is not common for employees in Pueblo for various reasons, so by purchasing equipment through the Kaiser Permanente grant and providing support for employees to walk/bike during work hours creates an environment where health is valued. Employees are encouraged to walk/bike to meetings, inspections, etc. on work time and also use their breaks/lunch to get outside. The goal is to introduce walking/biking as a means of transportation so more employees will choose to use active transportation to commute. 

Return on Investment: A wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is key. To curb rising health care costs, many employers are turning to workplace health programs to make changes in the worksite environment, help employees adopt healthier lifestyles and, in the process, lower their risk of developing costly chronic diseases. 

  • Nationally, businesses lose $4.3 billion a year due to obesity related job absenteeism.
  • Annual health care costs for an obese individual is $1,400 higher than those who are not obese.
  • The annual economic costs related to diabetes were estimated at $174 billion including $116 billion in direct medical expenses and $58 billion in indirect costs attributed to disability, work loss, and premature mortality.
  • Between 2000–2004, the economic costs related to tobacco use were estimated at $192.8 billion per year including $96 billion per year in direct medical costs and $96.8 billion per year in lost productivity.

As 2014 comes to a close, PCCHD can report that 92% of employees were actively involved in wellness activities at some point during the year.  Team Wellness has momentum and great things are in store for 2015.