Town Talk: Wellness program

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

The City of New Ulm and the New Ulm Public Utilities (PUC) has implemented a wellness program to help reduce healthcare costs, create a desirable culture, and to improve the overall employee experience.

The City and PUC have staff members who represent the various departments on a wellness committee. The purpose of the wellness committee is to plan, promote, and implement wellness programs that encourage employees to live a healthier lifestyle.

Over the past year the committee has put together some very successful programs based on data received from the Heart of New Ulm heart health screenings and surveying our employee population. Included in our health insurance is up to $20 per month for membership fees when employees work out at a fitness center at least 12 days in a month. We also offer flu shots on-site and various wellness presentations to promote wellness throughout the year. We are part of the South Central Service Cooperative (SCSC) insurance pool, which includes various cities and counties in order to get specially negotiated rates. The SCSC offers wellness dollars to all members in order to have healthier people with improved self-esteem, increased job performance, a decrease in sick leave days, and lower health plan utilization.

We have had two successful 12 week programs over the past year. We started last year by having employees participate in a “Weight-Loss Winner” competition. We had 37 employees’ lose an average of 3.91 percent of their weight, which was an average of almost 8 pounds lost per employee. This year we put together two 12-week “Step Up Challenges.” We have 80 employees participating in the program. Employees utilize an activity tracker to track their steps throughout the day. The steps are then uploaded into a secure program that encourages employees to get moving and shows how incremental bits of exercise and movement can add up over a day.

This program also has the ability to track food and calories consumed, calories burned, and it shows the top walkers in the program over any time period. During the first 12 week program, employees needed to meet an average of 7,000 steps per day and during the current challenge employees must meet an average of 8,000 steps per day. Ninety-two percent of employees that participated in the first program met the goal, which exceeded our expectations.

The wellness committee will continue to encourage employees to participate in the programs that are offered because of the impact and benefits. The cost of rising health care is a concern of the City and PUC as it is for private industry. We continue to offer successful programs to our employees hoping to bring healthcare costs down, which in turn will save the City and PUC money.

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