By MIKE LEWIS firstname.lastname@example.org | Photos by Kevin G. Gilbert/Chief Photographer
Employers can offer plenty of wellness programs and health checkups, some local experts acknowledged recently, but it’s still a challenge to motivate people to participate. “We have the same issue, and we’re the health department. That should tell you something,” Mary McPherson, a program manager at the Washington County Health Department, said during last week’s Eggs and Issues session, sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
McPherson was part of an eight-person panel that addressed wellness and workplace issues. And most of the eight said people can take small steps to make big improvements in their health. For example, start striding up the stairs instead of riding in the elevator. McPherson mentioned one organization that made stairwells more attractive by decorating them with artwork, piping in music and posting reminders about the health benefits of using the stairs. “It doesn’t need to be big,” she said of efforts to promote health. “Start really small. Have low expectations.”
Fitness “is part of our culture” at Hagerstown’s Hub Labels, according to Pam Kunkle. She’s the human resource manager at the company, which offers a fitness room, classes and other wellness opportunities for employees. But she stressed the label printer’s culture has been built one step at a time over the course of years. She told fellow employers at the session that motivation “is going to be one of the most difficult challenges you’re going to have. … You have to keep at it. You can’t give up.”
Katherine Smith, representing the American Heart Association, said the ideas do not need to be complicated. Instead of taking doughnuts to the routine meeting, she suggested, take doughnuts and fruit. Instead of stocking soft drinks, provide soft drinks and water. The idea, she said, is to provide people with opportunities to make healthier choices.
Panelists also talked about incentives employers can offer to boost wellness. For example, Andy Bruns, president and publisher of Herald-Mail Media, said the company offers wellness screenings and checks as an example of some of the employee incentives they offer. As an incentive, he said, employees receive insurance discounts for participating in the screenings as well as making healthy choices, such as quitting smoking.
The panelists detailed resources that are available to help people pursue healthier lifestyles.
• Bruns spoke about healthy washingtoncounty.com, a collaboration involving The Herald-Mail and Meritus Health. The site, which can be used by anyone, allows people to track their weight, blood pressure and exercise levels. It also offers information about health issues.
• Kunkle, of Hub Labels, said the company has been encouraging employee health for years. The company has a fitness room and helps offer classes, from workouts to yoga. A farmers market comes to the company to sell fresh foods.
• McPherson, of the health department, said the agency is working on a walking plan for the area. She said Washington County is home to many walking trails, including those in city, state and national parks. “We just need to get people out using them,” she said.
• Smith, representing the Heart Association, said the organization offers what it calls Workplace Health Solutions, a variety of tools designed to improve employees’ health. She stressed the importance of wellness programs, noting that “80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable.”