Gazette.Net: Maryland kicks off wellness initiative for employees

Posted: June 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

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Maryland is rolling out a new program to keep state employees in good health, and study the most effective fitness strategies employed by state agencies.

The State of Maryland Employee Wellness Initiative, led by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will develop best practices for state agencies to promote healthy lifestyles among their employees, said Fran Philips, the departments deputy secretary for public health.

The initiative eventually will use Marylands StateStat data-collection system to track the health of state employees and promote sound eating, exercise and avoiding tobacco. Research shows that living by those three principles can prevent 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and 40 percent of some cancers, according to DHMH.

It is our responsibility as employers to provide our employees opportunities to improve their health while at the same time improving the bottom line for our businesses, our government and our communities, said Gov. Martin OMalley (D) in a statement.

The program was announced Friday at a workplace health and wellness symposium in Linthicum, and the first phase will include a series of state-sponsored activities in the coming months, including promotion of healthy recipes, physical activity in the workplace and Maryland Quitline, a free hot line and website for people who want to quit smoking.

Because there can be a difference in the levels of physical activity between jobs employees at the Department of Corrections, for example, face different physical challenges than park rangers agencies will be given the freedom to adopt the policies that best suit their needs, Philips said.

Next year, the state will begin examining data, such as which policies have been adopted and how many employees have gotten flu shots, to measure whats been most effective, Philips said.

Increasing basic exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes per day, is particularly important for those whose daily life isnt active, said Dr. Brit Saksvig, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Reducing that sedentary time can have great benefit, she said.

Good dietary choices, particularly avoiding sugary drinks such as sodas, also are crucial, Saksvig said.

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Gazette.Net: Maryland kicks off wellness initiative for employees

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June 5th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Health and Fitness