Minnesota Cities Magazine

Two-Way Street: Does Your City Have an Employee Wellness Program?

Human Resources Director
City of Maple Grove

Maple Grove has an employee wellness program known as “Fit for Life,” and it began in 1990 with annual fitness testing and health screening. This was an excellent way to start the program as it introduced employees to the concept of wellness.

The program has continually expanded each year, and it has evolved into a year-round incentive-based, comprehensive prevention, education, and lifestyle change program with the mission of promoting the health and well-being of employees and their families. The results include reduced health care and worker’s compensation costs, and an improved quality of life at work and at home.

Organizational support
The program has been successful over time due in large part to the organizational commitment to employee health and well-being. In fact, the City Council, city administrator, and department directors have all fully supported the program since its inception. The program is offered to all benefit-earning employees and paid on-call firefighters. A Wellness Committee, com-prised of employees from all departments within the city, meets monthly to plan and develop the program activities for the upcoming year. The needs of the employees are addressed by offering a wide range of interventions and program activities. Employ¬ees can pick and choose programs from a menu of options that meet their needs and interests. Their incentive to partici¬pate is a reward of up to two extra vacation (wellness) days.

Long-term success
This incentive-based model has been successful for us as we have demonstrated lower annual medical and workers’ com¬pensation premiums compared to the national average. Also, employee survey results show that the program positively impacts their health, improves workplace morale, influences family members to seek healthier lifestyles, makes them more aware of their at-risk health behaviors and how to address them, and helps to reduce their overall health care costs. Additionally, we are recognized as a leader in workplace wellness initiatives and have won several awards for our inno¬vative and creative approach to providing worksite wellness benefits to our employees. We are happy to share useful tools, resources, and information with other organizations to help them develop or enhance their own wellness programs.

Human Resources Director
City of Fridley

Since 1986, the City of Fridley has offered a Fitness Testing and Wellness Program twice a year to all full-time employees and paid on-call firefighters. More than 50 percent voluntarily take advantage of the program. Now in its 27th year, the program has been one of the most popular benefit plans with staff. Each spring and fall, employees look forward to seeing the staff from Allina Health, which has been the city’s partner since 2006. “The City of Fridley has developed a consistent and comprehensive wellness program that has assisted in improving the health of employees,” says Brenda Link, RN, manager of the wellness program at Allina Health.

Health assessments
Individual tests are conducted confidentially and include body composition (body mass index, or BMI), blood pressure, lung capacity test, muscle strength and endurance, six-minute cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and grip strength measurement. Employees also have their total cholesterol checked. Credit is given for non-smokers as well as to employees who set and accomplish health-related goals.

In addition, employees complete a lifestyle questionnaire once a year that collects general information about nutrition habits, sleeping patterns, family history, and risk factors. Following the testing period, Allina Health provides each employee with a comprehensive personal report, which contains useful information, wellness scores, risk factors, and recommendations for health improvement.

Allina Health also provides a group progress report to the city. Recently, this report has revealed significant reductions in high blood pressure, BMI, chronic health problems, and the number of smokers. This all translates into lower health risks and fewer absences from work.

Life-saving program
Testing two times a year helps keep wellness in the minds of employees. Employees share half the cost of the tests (approximately $70) and receive extra paid time off (up to three days), depending on their fitness levels. Other wellness events are occasionally held in conjunction with this semi-annual event such as a health fair, vision and hearing screenings, and flu shots. This program has been a useful recruiting tool, and some employees have commented to me that they’ve discovered valuable information during the testing that ultimately led to life-changing and even life-saving events.

Read the July-August 2013 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.