There are many factors, or determinants, that affect health and have a tremendous influence on our well-being. The physical environment, social and economic factors, and clinical care all play a part in an individual’s health. Kane County is focusing on all determinants of health as part of the Employee Wellness program.
The County strives to promote wellness in all its employees, knowing that it will allow them to lead healthier, more productive lives with less time away from the office due to illness.
Employee Wellness Screening
Kane County Health Department coordinates this program which gives all employees currently enrolled in the county’s health plan an opportunity to have a free health evaluation. Evaluations are currently performed by Interactive Health Solutions (IHS), an outside company which coordinates employee wellness programs for employers. All results are confidential and only aggregated data from the evaluations are reported to the County. Appointments for the evaluations are necessary and are available at county buildings during various times once a year as well as lab facilities in the area. The screening is also available to spouses/partners covered under the health plan. Participation is voluntary, but employees receive a $50/month discount on health insurance by participating. An additional $50/month discount is available for employee spouses/partners who participate. For 2011, the program had a 98% participation rate for eligible employees.
The following data and charts were provided by IHS as part of the 2011 Report.
1,571 people participated in the full evaluation, of which 533 were spouses of Kane County employees. The chart below shows a few facts from the 2011 screenings.
As a comparison, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) for adults in Kane County is 27.6, 27.1 for women and 28.3 for men, and the percentage of smokers is 12% (2011 Kane County Community Health Assessment). Kane County employees have higher BMIs than the average for Kane County residents and the smoking rate among those screened is 30% higher than the rate for Kane County residents.
The screenings also showed newly discovered conditions and those individuals were contacted by medical staff from IHS and encouraged to schedule a visit with their personal physician as soon as possible.
Studies have shown that employee wellness programs improve the health of participants and cut down on insurance costs for employers. According to a Harvard University study, for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs, medical cost savings are $3.27 and absenteeism costs are reduced by approximately $2.73/dollar spent. The programs save employers money, help participants meet health goals, and are sustainable because cost savings in health insurance are used to fund additional wellness programs. Healthy employees are more productive which benefits employers and cuts down on employee stress.
Progress to Date
Kane County offers various wellness programs for employees that address both physical and social/emotional health:
• On the Move Newsletter: Provides all employees with health and wellness information, recipes, tips, and tricks to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. During the Weight Loss Challenge and Physical Activity Challenge, the newsletter provides updates on employee progress and prize winners.
• Weight Loss Challenge: For a set number of weeks, employees weigh-in weekly with status updates provided through the “On The Move” newsletter. Employees may participate individually or as part of a team, and prizes are awarded for different classes (men, women, teams) based on BMI (Body Mass Index) changes and total weight loss at the end of the challenge.
• Physical Activity Challenge: All employees are encouraged to be physically active. During the Weight Loss Challenge timeframe, an activity log is available on the County Intranet for employees to fill out the type and total minutes of physical activity performed for each day. Prizes are distributed weekly as an incentive to participate.
• Making Kane County Fit For Kids Gardens: Employees, in addition to all residents, have access to low-cost garden plots sponsored by the Fit for Kids initiative. The gardens are located in Aurora on Highland Avenue, with plans for future expansion.
• Employee Assistance Program: This employee benefit provides counseling to employees and any family members. The service is staffed with trained professionals who are equipped to handle a variety of counseling needs related to work or personal issues. The EAP can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Strategies & Action Items
Strategy W1. Offer Kane County employees opportunities to improve physical health and wellness
Kane County employees currently enjoy many benefits of the Kane County employee wellness program. Expanding on that wellness program and encouraging healthy activities and alternatives in the workplace will result in a healthier staff, less missed work, and reduced insurance costs. Healthy options can include opportunities for increasing daily exercise, nutritional counseling, or nutritional information or alternatives.
Action items – Healthy Eating:
1. Investigate Community Supported Agriculture – Kane County drop-off points for staff use and farmer’s markets within walking distance of County campuses.
2. Investigate “healthy” vending machines/ healthy options in vending machines
3. Post nutritional information on Kane County vending machines
4. Create community garden plots for employees on Kane County grounds or within walking distance of facilities
5. Investigate having an on-site Weight Watchers or similar weight loss support groups
Action items – Active Living:
1. Create Kane County staff walking groups
2. Create point of decision signs encouraging stairway use
3. Investigate discounted gym memberships for employees
4. Investigate making Kane County campuses smoke free (already in place at Health Department)
5. Encourage participation in smoking cessation programs
Strategy W2. Offer Kane County employees opportunities to improve social/emotional wellness
A healthy Kane County workforce must take into account employees’ social and emotional wellness. Staff who are able to cope with stress and who feel included and valued in their workplace will be more productive and cost the County less in missed work time. Activities to improve employee social/emotional wellness can include options for learning about or practicing stress management and healthy living techniques. Staff input groups in the workplace can give employees a chance to provide valuable input into decisions which affect them, as well as a vehicle for generating new ideas and building staff cohesiveness.
1. Work with KC wellness group to promote staff healthy/ active events & promotions
2. Utilize staff input groups for facility, Human Resources & programmatic changes
3. Investigate holding time and stress management classes/workshops
For More Information ...
Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois Health and Wellness Website
My Plate Information for adults and children on healthy eating and active living. Includes sample menus and recipes, food trackers, physical activity trackers, and nutritional information for over 8,000 foods.
Bounty of Kane: A listing of farmer’s markets, farmstands, and other specialty producers in Kane County, including a map of available resources.