City wins award for wellness program

Juneau promotes healthy lifestyles for its employees

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2007

The city has been awarded one of five Alaska Community Awards of Excellence by the Alaska Municipal League for Juneau's Health Yourself Employee Wellness Program.

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The program was created to promote healthy lifestyles for city employees, and to reduce health care costs and lost work time due to illness or injury, program coordinator Natasha Petrofsky said.

"The program was developed to provide a healthy environment workplace and provide employees with tools and education to be able to live a healthier lifestyle," she said.

The award was given Thursday in Fairbanks during the 57th annual local government conference.

"They were formed as an idea to acknowledge cities that go above and beyond the standards that we expect from our communities," Alaska Municipal League spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said. "The awards of excellence are for communities that really think outside the box."

The city of Anderson was presented with two awards for its land give-away program created by high school students as a way to boost economic development. Anchorage and Palmer also each were presented with an award Thursday.

Woodrow said the award presented to Juneau is somewhat unique because it won for the revenue and finance category with a health program.

"It's a win-win situation," he said. "Not only do they create a healthy lifestyle for their employees, but it saves the city money."

Petrofsky said the program started in 1990, but it was contracted out to a third-party vendor. The city created an in-house position to administer the program in 2006, which Petrofsky began in August of that year.

Reducing health-care costs is one of the city's stated goals for the program, she said.

"The city is self-insured, so of course we want to look at keeping health care down," Petrofsky said.

Wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular for corporations and even municipalities around the country, she said.

"One of the biggest things is that it has been around for so long, that the city started this program back in 1990," she said. "It was definitely way ahead of its time in providing this for their employees."

The city's wellness program includes a variety of health-oriented activities, services, tools and information for nearly 900 of the city's employees and their spouses. Earlier this week, city employees and spouses had the option of getting flu shots as part of the program.

The city began lunchtime weight-loss meetings earlier this year as part of the program, with roughly 60 employees participating, Petrofsky said.

"The total weight loss is probably about 800 pounds to date," she said.

The program also offers various physical and nutritional challenges throughout the year, such as getting at least 30 minutes of exercise on three days of the week.

"It's just providing the knowledge that's needed to make healthy lifestyle changes or to continue living a healthy lifestyle," Petrofsky said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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