Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Recently, we recognized several Nebraska employers for their efforts to promote wellness at work. In 2008, we developed an award to highlight successful workplace wellness programs. Now in its fourth year, the Governor's Excellence in Wellness Awards will honor 28 winners this year.
The Governor's award recognizes Nebraska companies who incorporate wellness into their business plans. The award ceremonies will be held in Gering, Kearney and Lincoln were honored with a 2011 Governor's award for encouraging workers to be more active.
Nebraska is gaining nation-wide attention for our wellness efforts. In 2009, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked Nebraska 25th. In 2010, we rose to 10th as a state in wellbeing. This year I am pleased that we have now moved into the top five with a ranking of 4th place. In fact, Nebraska had the biggest gains in wellbeing rank of any state.
Workplace prevention and wellness efforts have been shown to improve productivity and satisfaction. They can also help control health care costs. These are exactly the results reported by 2011 workplace wellness award winners.
We have seen success in several areas including lower rates of cigarette and tobacco use, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a decrease in obesity. Worksite wellness is a win-win for everyone involved. For employers, healthy employees make for a better, stronger and more productive organization. Individuals win because they become healthier by losing weight, participating in supervised exercise programs and kicking habits like smoking.
Nebraska companies have been very creative in their workplace wellness efforts. One company provides a large array of resources to its employees, including a Metabolic Syndrome Program, successfully guiding them to make better choices to improve their health through learning events and one-on-one coaching. These efforts have increased lifestyle related fitness from 49% to 57%, reduced associate cancer risk, and decreased high blood pressure from 9% to 6%.
An industrial worksite provided opportunity and encouragement to their employees, who lost a total of 990 pounds during their annual 6 month weight loss competition. Another institution established opportunities designed to incorporate work, families, and healthy lifestyles all while having fun. This program includes a 15 hour yearly volunteer component. The activities have employees working and laughing together resulting in higher morale, less absenteeism, and fewer sick days. Their better eating habits are resulting in an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption from 15% to 37%.
A manufacturing company focused on leading a healthy and safe lifestyle in and out of the workplace. Their events include nutrition, fitness, mental health, community involvement, and overall body and mind awareness. They offer free annual heath evaluations and flu vaccinations, and up to $300 annual credit for joining a health club, health program, or purchasing workout equipment. They also have access to a smoking cessation program and a confidential Employee Assistance Program. The successes among their employees are a 23% decrease in the moderate risk category, 77% repeat participation in annual health assessments, and over 330 total pounds lost.
Another example is from a medical provider that offers a free on-site clinic to employees and their families. It handles minor urgent care visits of common acute and chronic conditions and injuries. Disease prevention and health promotion is a key component to the clinic. Due to a wellness plan, the healthcare claims attributed to unhealthy behavior declined from 82% to 4% from 2008 to 2010. The percentage of employees reporting participation in recommended amounts of physical activity increased from 53 to 70%.
I applaud the success of the 28 organizations honored this year. Our message is that wellness works every time and by taking the initiative to encourage workplace wellness, they are making Nebraska a healthier place to live, work and raise a family.