The new initiative seeks to promote a healthy workforce and a healthy community in general for the people who are involved in it. It is part of a three-year plan to bring different wellness options to city employees, retirees and their families.
“We charge a health insurance premium to those who participate,” said Wayne Parsons, a city auditor. “It is such a small cost that people in the community will not be affected cost wise unless they participate.”
According to Parsons, health providers gave the city of Duluth a $150,000 wellness credit, which increased the budget for this program for 2012 to 2013. The total budget for health insurance costs in Duluth is around $20 million dollars.
“This program is important because if we provide more wellness options for employees in Duluth, it results in a happier workplace for everyone,” said Marlene Van Puyumbrouck, a human resources official.
Only a small percentage of the city health budget goes toward this program, so it should not change what taxpayers in Duluth are paying, according to Parsons. There is no flat rate to join the program, but rather, rates are determined based on the participant’s situation and affect individual insurance plans.
The increased budget given to the city has allowed Duluth Human Resources to include new wellness options and advice for people who participate in the program. The program provides many nutritional tips as well as different strategies that are offered to participants, including a “Lose Weight in Eight” challenge.
“We have developed quite a few initiatives,” Van Puyumbrouck said. “We have different physical challenges going on, and we also provide online support, where there are tips on how to lose weight and access to nutrition tips.”
The program is designed as a partnership to help employees develop a healthier lifestyle, according to the wellness program handbook. This is done by providing nutritional tips, offering events and seminars, and encouraging participants to increase physical activity and to monitor their health care risks.
The wellness program has partnered with the DECC, where it will organize events that feature motivational speakers for participants on Thursdays. Some of the events offered by the program include “Lose Weight in Eight” and “Walk Key West” challenges.
Van Phyumbrouck explains that it is important to have wellness options offered in the community because it doesn’t just affect program participants, but everyone in the community benefits from it.
“With all of the information out there today on wellness options and nutrition, it is a good return on investment to offer things to people in the community,” Van Phyumbrouck said. “All of these things result in a happier workforce for everyone.”
Van Phyumbrouck said the wellness program works off the notion that when people have a healthier lifestyle, they become a better employee, which produces a better quality of life.
“Since 2011, we have developed a more structured and strategic plan, doing challenges and walks because of our health credit, and also to deliver our knowledge on wellness information to the people of Duluth,” Van Phyumbrouck said.
According to the St. Louis County website, any employee or retiree of the area can request to enroll in the wellness program at anytime. For a member’s spouse or children to participate, they must members of the St. Louis County self-insured plan. What's more, many insurance plans, especially Blue Cross Blue Shield, provide a large amount of free health and wellness related information on their website, according to the wellness program handbook.