Akron Children’s Hospital workers get a ticket for a chance to win jewelry or other prizes every time they opt for a designated healthy meal in the cafeteria.
Employee recognition ceremonies at Aultman Hospital in Canton now feature sandwich wraps with an all-veggie option instead of the customary chicken and pizza.
And Akron General employees can lower their share of health insurance premiums by participating in education or exercise programs, even if they don’t meet all the targets for weight, blood pressure and other measures of health.
These were among the experiences and tips shared by area wellness experts during the sixth Summit County Worksite Wellness Conference on Thursday at the Akron-Summit County Public Library in downtown Akron.
The event drew nearly 200 participants who were interested in learning ways to launch corporate wellness programs and, as the title suggested, “Creating a Culture of Wellness.”
“Wellness is not something we do to people — it’s something we do with and for them so they can achieve health and well-being,” said Alida Moonen, coordinator of employee wellness for Summa Health System and a moderator for one of the panel discussions at the event.
The free event is coordinated by more than 20 participating area health providers, government agencies, social service organizations and businesses.
As health-care costs climb, interest in corporate wellness programs has grown in recent years.
According to a study released last month by national nonprofit health-care research firm Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of companies viewed wellness programs as “very effective” or “somewhat effective” tools for controlling health insurance costs.
People need to think about the impact all their decisions can have on health, said Dr. Janine Janosky, a panel moderator and a vice president at the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron.
She gave the example from a previous job where her employer opted to get rid of the salad bar in the cafeteria to make room for more seating.
“What’s the health impact if you decide to take that out to make room for a few tables?” she asked.
The panelists encouraged participants to create work environments that encourage wellness by making healthy choices the easiest options.
When stocking vending machines in break rooms, mark healthy options with eye-catching labels and place them in prominent spots, said Julie Sich, supervisor of health and wellness and disease management at SummaCare.
Sich encourages employers to take advantage of free community programs, including downtown walking events or farmer’s markets, as a way to promote wellness on limited budgets.
Area parks and sidewalks also can be used as a budget-friendly way to start walking programs, said Bret Belfer, manger of wellness services for Akron General Medical Center.
“Evaluate what’s really needed and what your employees want,” he said.
Serve healthier options at work luncheons and consider launching “walking meetings” rather than limiting discussions to conference rooms, Summa’s Moonen suggested.
Slide shows from presentations and other tips shared during the conference will be available on the event’s website at www.summitworksitewellness.com.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.