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 fifth year, the Governor's Wellness Awards will honor 26 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 honoring the 2012 Governor's Wellness Award recipients 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. Last year and again this year I'm pleased that we have moved into the top five with a ranking of 4th place. Additionally, Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently recognized Nebraska as being a national leader in workplace wellness programs.
Workplace prevention and wellness efforts have been shown to improve productivity and satisfaction. Wellness can also help control health care costs. These results are demonstrated by the 2012 workplace wellness award winners.
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, and participating in exercise programs.
Worksites have been making changes and reporting progress. One business with 51 employees focused on reducing absenteeism with a goal of a 5 percent reduction in 2011. The outcome was an 11 percent decrease in absenteeism with a trend of decreasing health insurance premiums over the past three years.
Another company with over 100 employees identified five health risks in their appraisal, including elevated blood pressure, overweight and obesity, inadequate sleep, inadequate physical activity and poor consumption of fruits and vegetables. While all five got better, three risks significantly improved, including reducing the number of employees who were overweight or obese from 59 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2011; consuming the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily increased from 9 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2011; and getting the recommended amount of physical activity increased from 57 percent in 2010 to 83 percent in 2011.
A non-profit organization with more than 450 employees met two of the company's health priority risks. Those included the need to increase physical activity and also to reduce obesity among the employees. Their physical activity increased from 48 percent to 63 percent, while education and behavior change activities enabled 32 percent of employees to meet the company's goal regarding weight loss.
A business with 650 employees at multiple locations identified three priority health risks, including employees not eating the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day, employees not getting recommended amounts of physical activity, and employees being overweight or obese. Developing what they called the "Healthy Dinner Club," the percentage of employees eating the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables rose from 13 percent to 30 percent. Employee participation in "Flab on Fire" and the "Ironman Fitness Challenge" contributed to an increase in the percentage of staff getting the recommended amount of physical activity from 28 percent to 38 percent and 22 percent of the staff reported a significant weight loss.
I applaud the success of the 26 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.