For Immediate Release: Oct. 3, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – Biometric screening, health coaching, exercise classes, healthy options in vending machines, park bench yoga, and a shared garden are all part of Vermont employer efforts to create a healthy work environment.
A Work Site Wellness Conference will be held on Oct. 7, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, to share best practices among employers who have developed strong worksite wellness programs, and encourage the creation of new programs for large and small companies statewide.
More than 250 people have signed up to attend. The conference will include a panel discussion and exhibits of best practices in work site wellness, and workshops on strategies and policies for driving healthy behavior changes in the work place.
“Employee wellness programs have gained significant momentum here in Vermont and it is for all the right reasons,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD, who will open the conference at 9 a.m. “Healthier employees leads to a healthier Vermont and significantly lowers the cost of health care. The programs are a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone involved.”
Nearly a quarter of health care costs in Vermont are due to health risks such as tobacco use, diet and lack of exercise. Employees who exercise as little as once-a-week have healthcare costs that are one-third to one-half lower than those who do not. Programs that have flourished provide the opportunity for everyone to become active, regardless of fitness levels, and provide a variety of options to get started and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas will present awards to Vermont employers for outstanding work place wellness initiatives, including businesses that have given employees cash, gas cards, gift certificates and partially reimbursed gym membership fees as incentives to stay motivated. A total of 48 work sites will receive awards. Michael Samuelson, Chief Executive Officer of The Health & Wellness Institute, will present the keynote address.
Employers can also participate in a stay home when you are sick kit scavenger hunt. Burlington recently became one of only nine U.S. communities selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to serve as a pandemic influenza preparedness community as part of a national campaign — Take the Lead: Working Together to Prepare Now. Employers will play a key role in minimizing the devastating impact a pandemic can have on the workforce and the economy.
The conference is sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Northwestern Medical Center, MVP Health Care, The Vermont Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the Vermont Human Resources Association.
Vermont employers are encouraged to access the worksite wellness resource guide posted on the Health Department website. The guide provides evidence-based, best practice guidance on how to develop a wellness program. The resource provides tools such as how to establish breastfeeding friendly and tobacco free worksites, healthy eating guidelines, and tips on supporting physical activity during the workday.
The Vermont Worksite Wellness Resource is available at: http://healthvermont.gov/family/fit/worksitewellness.aspx
For more information on the conference, including a schedule of speakers and workshops, visit: http://healthvermont.gov/family/fit/worksitewellness.aspx.