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Healthy Worksites in Vineland: 21 and Counting

October 31, 2016 | Community News, Community News and Media, Vineland

Twenty-one Vineland-area employers understand the value of improving, supporting and maintaining healthy behaviors in the workplace. Since 2015, Live Healthy Vineland (LHV) has worked with local businesses and organizations to design and implement interventions that positively impact employee health.

On September 22, the City of Vineland, The Safeway Group and Elwyn of New Jersey were recognized for their efforts in fostering a culture of health and wellness at LHV’s inaugural 2016 Healthy Worksite Enrichment and Empowerment Conference. Programs established at Elwyn, The Safeway Group and the City of Vineland—all early adopters of LHV’s Healthy Worksite Program—serve as model participants. Other businesses, such as Progresso, have focused their programs on strategies that address the work environment.

“Elwyn, a human services organization, fully understands the importance of engaging their employees in creating a culture of health,” said David Calderetti, Project Director for the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland. Peggy Barker, Pension & Benefits Manager at Elwyn, oversees the worksite initiative. She helped establish a Wellness Council as a first step in raising awareness and eliciting support among management and employees. An early action was to make all buildings smoke-free. Elwyn participates in National Walk at Work Day and recently hosted a Health Fair with over 30 vendors, enabling employees to learn about health and wellness resources in the community. Recently, Elwyn brought in a dietician to conduct a healthy food shopping and cooking class for employees who prepare meals for Elwyn clients. The workshop provided insight on how to address clients’ dietary needs.

Robert LaForgia, Health Worksite Coordinator for LHV and Health Educator for the Vineland Health Department, is the driving force behind the Healthy Worksite Program. He recruits worksites to participate in the initiative and provides the necessary technical assistance needed to create a purposeful and impactful program. “We show businesses that they can start small and expand over time to become sustainable in years to come,” LaForgia said.

LaForgia outlined key steps to getting started when an employer expresses interest in becoming a healthy worksite:

  1. Assessment. LaForgia surveys employees to understand what they want to see in their workplace, e.g., preventive screenings, tobacco cessation, physical activity. He also collects demographics on the workforce and gets a feel for an employer’s internal resources.
  2. Wellness champions. Companies should appoint a wellness council and designate one or more wellness champions to help with evaluation and implementation.
  3. Presentation and Discussion. LaForgia presents survey findings and initiates an open discussion about the worksite’s current state of health, priorities and what to do first. “We assess what’s feasible, based on employee/employer preferences and funding,” said LaForgia.
  4. Implementation. Programs and activities can be tailored to employers and their employees. LaForgia has helped employers set up tobacco cessation, blood pressure and glucose screenings, weight loss and exercise programs.

“Whatever the employer needs, there are resources available,” said LaForgia. Employers receive a resource guide and toolkit to guide them through the healthy worksite start-up and advise them of associated costs that may arise.

Healthy worksite programs offer benefits for employees and employers. At a minimum, employees gain knowledge about healthy behavior and potential health risks. More active programs can induce lifestyle changes including healthier food choices and physical activity. For employers, healthy worksite health programs have the ability to affect health care costs, absenteeism, productivity, recruitment and retention, culture and employee morale.

With employees spending a third of their week at work, keeping them healthy is a clear win-win for all.

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