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Health officials: Employee fitness a company concern

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Health (BOH) reached out to local businesses and county agencies on Wednesday, in order to help them create happier and healthier employees.

During its Employer Health and Wellness Luncheon, the agency showed local employers how they can create their own health programs and make them effective.

Jamie Carlington, public information officer for BOH programs, said that as the economy has suffered, more people have been turning to public health care, which in turn, drives up the cost of health care. She said employers can play a key role in keeping health care cost low by creating health programs for their employees.

"Naturally, because we are public health care, we are seeing an increase [in use]," Carlington said. "As we are asking people to become more proactive about their health; we are asking employers to help subsidize in that. We're talking to area businesses about ways they can start their own health and wellness programs."

During the meeting, Carlington discussed: How employers can approach local gyms to acquire group discounts for their employees; how businesses can have the BOH host nutrition and smoking secession seminars on site; and how employers can create fitness campaigns with built-in incentives, such as gift certificates, extended lunch hours, and special parking spaces for successful participants.

By creating incentives for being more active and healthy, employers "will see better attendance, more-focused employees, and, hopefully, that will lead to reductions in health care costs," Carlington said. "You'll have a healthier employee and that will transfer into the work place and their personal life as well."

Beadie Davison, BOH public health educator, said the BOH can help employers arrange healthy eating demonstrations for their employees. "Modifying your diet doesn't have to be drastic," Davison said. "You get better results by making small changes that you can live with. A lot of times, if people can see that it is tasty, then they are more likely to change their behavior."

Several county businesses and agencies were represented at the meeting, including the Clayton County Water Authority, the Clayton County Police Department, BB&T Bank, AMERIGROUP Community Care, and Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department.

Clayton County Deputy Police Chief Tim Robinson said that health is paramount for police officers to do their jobs. He applauded the BOH for making other businesses and agencies more aware of how to improve the health of their employees.

"You never know what kind of situation you will be confronted with," Robinson said. "Being in shape makes you better prepared. Education is the key."

Michelle Mirzaiee, a human resources coordinator for the Clayton County Water Authority, said the water authority has already used some of the ideas shared at the meeting to the company's benefit. She said the authority annually hosts a health fair for its employees and has detected the early stages of breast cancer, hypertension, and other medical issues in some employees.

"We have done a lot of these things in our employment group and we really have seen a lot of changes," Mirzaiee said. "Over the years, we have maintained our [insurance] premiums because of the investment that we put into our employees. It also lets them know that we care about their well-being. Little changes lead to big changes," she said.