April 2, 2012
Cook County Springs Into Health With New Worksite Wellness Initiative
President Preckwinkle alongside Dr. Raju announced today a broad worksite wellness initiative, “Spring Into Health!” to engage Cook County’s 22,000 employees in a culture of health and fitness. As part of her commitment to lead by example, Preckwinkle has designed the new program to foster a healthy work environment that will ensure employees and their families make positive lifestyle choices.
Through a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the county will now provide a comprehensive wellness program accessible to all employees. Spring Into Health! will be offered at no cost to employees, and at no cost to taxpayers.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Heart Association, and our friends in labor have been invaluable in helping craft a wellness plan that will engage our workforce,” President Preckwinkle said. “We are hoping to reach employees at every department, at every level, and show them that leading a healthy lifestyle is possible with Cook County as a partner.”
“We are the safety net for Cook County and we will work to make sure County employees have access and knowledge to top resources to live a healthier, longer life,” said Dr. Raju, CEO, Cook County Health & Hospitals System.
In framing the program, President Preckwinkle collaborated with labor leaders from the Teamsters, Fraternal Order of Police, Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Coalition of Unionized Public Employees, Service Employees International Union, and the Doctor’s Council to engage the county’s workforce and help promote the benefits.
Spring Into Health! will utilize a variety of comprehensive, long-term and preventative health promotion activities to accomplish employee goals. These include health education, screening programs and social support. Some of the key initiatives of Spring Into Health! include:
- Health Fairs
In April, the program kicks off with five health fairs at various county locations. The fairs will increase awareness by providing health screenings, activities, materials, demonstrations, and health information. Screenings and information will be provided by a diverse array of organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Caremark, Cook County Health and Hospital System and Cook County Department of Public Health. Services will include weight, BMI and A1C tests, massage and physical therapists, healthy cooking demonstrations, and information and educational materials.
- Know Your Numbers
Employees will be able to take Health Risk Assessments – an online, 10-15 minute questionnaire that tracks health behaviors. Facilitated by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the HRAs are confidential, and can be filled out at home, work, at a public computer or at kiosks at the health fair. They will also receive 2,500 Blue Points via the Blue Cross Blue Shield website, which can be redeemed for items such as digital jump ropes and music downloads.
- Walking Works
The Walking Works program is a voluntary program focused on promoting physical activity through a team-based challenge. Participating employees receive pedometers, which they will use to track their daily walking activity. Monthly prizes will be awarded based on mileage logged. Pedometers are also available at any of the health fairs.
Another key component of Spring Into Health! is the Wellness Council, convened by President Preckwinkle to develop comprehensive, long-term and preventative programming. The Wellness Council will ensure that appropriate methods and experts are utilized to provide a holistic and engaging experience for Cook County employees.
Employees will reap substantial benefits from participating in Spring Into Health!, but so will taxpayers. Studies have shown that health risks decreases after the implementation of a comprehensive worksite wellness program. This, in turn, will lead to increased government savings due to reduced health care costs, absenteeism and workers’ compensations claims.
The pathway to better health can be a long one, and requires commitment. The launch of Spring Into Health! is the first step in a collaborative effort that will extend throughout the year, and for years to come. As the data regarding Cook County employees’ collective health comes in and is analyzed, programming and communications will be developed to tackle those specific issues and meet ongoing needs. Cook County employees have a long-term partner in President Preckwinkle and the means to accomplish their goals with Spring Into Health!