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June 17, 2014
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Guest Column: Encouraging wellness can create a healthier workforce

You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking, and there may just be some truth in it. Americans spend a third of their day in front of the computer, and it’s killing us. Sedentary habits lead to poor health and chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic illnesses account for 75 percent of medical costs. Employees and employers take note: Worksite wellness programs can significantly improve productivity and reduce health care costs. Wellness programs include a variety of activities and policies, from healthy vending options to tobacco-free environments. There are incentives for both the employer and the employee for staying healthy.

There are clear benefits for employers. Wellness programs provide the company with a strategic advantage by investing money in a program that will offer returns such as lower absenteeism and reduced health care costs. Employees are the most valuable assets to any company. By providing workers with wellness services, companies are improving well-being and job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rates. The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company.

As an employee, you can benefit from a wellness program by creating a positive change in your lifestyle. Workplace wellness programs can help you get healthier, even if that simply means learning how to reduce stress and muscle strain when you are on the job.

Sometimes all you need is a little motivation to get the ball rolling. Participating in your worksite wellness program can help get you started on the road to health. Not only will you be more able to complete your job responsibilities, you will have more energy and vitality to share with your family and friends when you get home, and more energy to do the things you love.

Although chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes are among the most common and costly of all health problems, adopting healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent them. A wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.

A workplace wellness program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behavior and improve health outcomes while at work. These programs consist of activities such as health education and coaching, weight management programs, medical screenings, on-site fitness programs and more.

Wellness programs also include policies and workplace environments intended to support employee health. This may include offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding “walk and talk” meetings, creating tobacco-free outdoor areas, providing bike racks and, if possible, offering incentives for participation in worksite wellness initiatives. Effective workplace programs, policies, and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families and communities.

On Thursday, Douglas County Public Health will host the second annual Wellness@Work Summit. This is a great opportunity for employers to learn about sustainable, affordable and effective ways to integrate wellness into their workplaces. It’s an opportunity to create a culture of wellness that can spill over into our homes and neighborhoods.

This year we are excited to bring Benjamin Prinzing, a wellness consultant and expert from Portland. Prinzing is the founder and managing partner at Kadalyst Health Partners, a wellness consulting company. For the past six years, Kadalyst has helped employers structure and embed comprehensive health management programs into their company culture, resulting in improved employee health and reduced health care costs.

Also presenting at this year’s summit is Pauline Martel, director of prevention and training at Adapt of Roseburg. Martel will provide valuable information about creating and maintaining drug-free workplaces — an issue of importance to both employers and employees. The Wellness@Work Summit is a great opportunity to learn about creating a culture of health at work and to network with other businesses and organizations within our community.

This is a free event but advance registration is required. To register, contact Virginia Elandt at 541-440-3577 or email with your contact information. For more information on how to make health a part of your workplace, visit Oregon’s Wellness@Work website at

Come be a part of a movement that will help create a healthier, economically viable Douglas County.

Virginia Elandt is a health educator with Douglas County Public Health and is the coordinator of Business Champions for Kids with Umpqua Training & Employment. She can be reached at 541-440-3577 or

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The News-Review Updated Jun 17, 2014 09:34AM Published Jun 30, 2014 11:30AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.