Vail Valley Voices: County workers getting fit
Eagle County employees are changing habits and living healthier lives,and it is paying off in lower health-care costs for the county. While most employers are facing rising health-care costs in 2012, Eagle County is not. Eagle County employees as a group are getting healthier. They are losing weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol counts, exercising more, and eating healthier. Many county employees have been living an active healthy lifestyle for years. Others only needed a little incentive to make some small changes with huge payoffs. Of the county’s 440 employees, 394 participated in the county’s wellness program in 2011, and 225 of them completed the entire program, earning small incentives along the way. During the summer months, 162 employees committed to eating a healthy breakfast and five servings of fruits and vegetables every work day for three months. And 137 employees committed to increasing their level of activity and participated in The President’s Fitness Challenge, many earning awards. Another 137 dedicated the summer to losing those extra pounds. As a group, they lost 370 pounds with three men losing over 30 pounds each and three women losing over 20 pounds each in less than three months. Gov.Hickenlooper declared April 10 as Colorado Culture of Health Day. Eagle County was asked to present the successes of the health and wellness program at the fifth annual Colorado Culture of Health Conference held on that day. I presented the wellness plan, “Plan Design: Three Steps to a Successful Health & Wellness Program.” Over 100 people attended the presentation and I have been contacted by over 15 companies to provide them with additional information on Eagle County’s program.The presentation highlighted how a thoughtfully designed health and wellness plan, aligned with a company’s specific health risks and lifestyles, can inspire willing participation and lower health care costs. The Eagle County health and wellness program has improved employee overall health, reduced health-care costs, and inspired 94 percent of employees to become an active participant in the program in 2012! The program has lowered the cost of actual health care claims by 21 percent since 2009. Eagle County government has also seen health-care costs per employee go down 50 percent for those who participated in the health and wellness program in 2009 and 2010. Those employees who chose not to participate followed the national trends of increased health-care costs of over 8 percent per year. Lisa Ponder is Eagle County’s human resources director for Eagle County.