Health Links [HL]: Why is the health and safety of your employees important to you?
Jefferson County [JC]: The Jefferson County employee wellness program, “Choose Well…Live Well,” is designed with the intention to support healthy choices and behaviors, improve health, and increase quality of life for our employees. We are committed to supporting healthy lifestyles and we strive to be progressive in developing programs, policies and initiatives to promote wellness, prevention and condition management. Our goals and strategy align with truly building a sustainable culture of health so our employees feel supported and empowered in their health, safety and well-being.
HL: What does your workplace health and safety program look like? Do you offer both components to employees?
JC: “Choose Well…Live Well” is one program with many, many components. It started in 2004 with the initiative to renovate an onsite fitness facility. With support of leadership and input from employees, it continued to evolve into a comprehensive program with its own brand, mission statement, and an enthusiastic wellness champion team. The program offers a wide variety of ways for employees to participate: onsite fitness centers, wellness challenges, educational seminars, special wellness events, health fairs, health assessments and biometric screenings, prevention activities like mobile mammograms, the diabetes prevention program and custom programming for departments based on needs, interests and health risks. The majority of our programming is available to all employees and many are available to spouses. A portion of our program is integrated with the medical benefits so participants can enjoy a discount on their medical insurance premium.
As far as safety is concerned specifically, we offer ergonomic assessments and interventions for desk-bound workers as well as for those engaged in outward bound activities (such as Road and Bridge crews). With the Road and Bridge crews, we are currently in the process of developing strategies to reduce on the job injuries through job shadowing and the prescription of stretching and strengthening routines, as well as through education.
HL: How will you/do you know your program is successful?
JC: We continuously evaluate our program’s progress using participation data, population health data (a combination of aggregate lifestyle and medical risk data), medical claims data, input from our Wellness Champions, and information gathered from employee surveys and program assessment tools. We use a dashboard of key metrics to track our program’s impact on an annual basis and identify opportunities to add or revise our strategy. We also review levels of program engagement and employee feedback.
HL: What obstacles did you have to overcome to get your program started? How did you overcome them?
JC: As a public sector employer, we are constantly challenged to provide a wide variety of programs and resources for our diverse employee groups. We learned early on that “one size does not fit all” so finding a customized combination of programs and services that are meaningful, relevant (and fun) across our multiple functional departments is our ongoing goal. We work with our many partners and we’ve utilized our data to develop a long-term strategy with the support of our leadership. We created a detailed action plan with goal metrics for risk reduction, engagement and culture to work toward annually. This action plan keeps us accountable and on track to focus on steadily improving our program and offering new and meaningful initiatives
HL: Does your health and safety program help give back to your community?:
JC: Our health and safety program gives back to the community in a number of ways. From a weight loss program that donates an equal amount of food as weight lost, to programs that insure the safety of the public at large from identity theft and outdated medications, Jefferson County endeavors to provide measures that are useful to the community. Other services offered to the public include a Citizen's Academy through the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office, as well as gardening classes provided by The Fairgrounds aimed at helping residents gain the confidence in growing their own home gardens. These are just a few of the measures that are implemented to give back to the community.
HL: What tip/advice would you give to a business that is considering starting a workplace health and safety program?:
JC: Engage your leadership! Whenever possible, use a data-driven approach with your leaders to share the business case for why a health and safety program should be a priority. Once you have the support of your leaders, establish a plan of action. Your action plan can be as simple as recruiting some grassroots champions and developing a communication plan to get started. And create programs that are for your employees, not programs that are “done to” your employees. The more you have all levels of your organization involved - from leaders to champions to general employee participants - the more likely it will be that you can create a long-lasting program.