County Judge Prioritizes Employee Wellness
By Julie Anderson, Editor
So much of county government comes down to numbers. How much money do we need, how much money do we have, and how much money do we owe? Equations are the name of the game, especially when it comes to budget time.
Medina County has come up with another equation, this one linking miles, pounds and pressure (blood pressure, that is) to a decrease in employee health care costs.
“We’re trying to make wellness part of our county program,” explained Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart. “Health insurance costs keep going up and up and up. In fact, our health care costs almost doubled last year.”
Since Schuchart took office in January 2015, he has implemented several wellness-oriented programs to inspire county employees to be as healthy as possible with a twofold potential benefit: improved personal health and a related decrease in health care expenses.
Schuchart’s first step was the formation of the Medina County Wellness Committee, which has sponsored a variety of health initiatives and challenges complete with incentives and rewards. While Schuchart says the county has only just begun its wellness campaign, accomplishments thus far are certainly impressive. Just ask Tom Keynton.
Triple Digit Loss
In the spring of 2015, Schuchart arranged for Weight Watchers to conduct weekly county meetings. As part of an incentive to join, the county offered to pay $50 of each participant’s Weight Watchers fee.
Tom Keynton, now an elections clerk for the county, worked in the maintenance department at the time. Although he was 34 years old and weighed 450 pounds, his weight had never really bothered him, and he had yet to experience any health issues. However, when Keynton’s supervisor informed him of the program, Keynton saw it as a challenge.
“When I’m challenged, I will do it,” Keynton claimed. He remained faithful to the program and upon completion weighed in at 330 pounds.
“I do feel better,” Keynton shared.
Collectively speaking, the 25 Weight Watchers participants lost around 400 pounds.
Medina County’s health provider gave the county $10,000 to go toward wellness efforts, and Schuchart and the committee have used a portion of this money to create an atmosphere of light-hearted challenge where participants are rewarded for their efforts.
For example, 90 employees participated in Walk Across Medina County last year. Everyone on the first-place team, which included County Commissioner Larry Sittre, received a $100 gift certificate. An iPad was purchased for the individual winner; however, the top two walkers were so close – one logging 532.40 miles and the other 531.06 miles – that each received an iPad.
In January of this year the Wellness Committee issued a weekly challenge, asking participants to tally exercise minutes including walking, running, biking, etc., with a prize going to the winner. The contest has been restructured since then with participants broken into three groups.
“We changed up the contest to allow everyone who participates to have a chance to win and not just the top performers,” Schuchart noted. “The top performers will win a larger prize amount, but all participants have a chance to win something. Some 40 employees are currently involved in the program.
Other wellness activities have included screenings for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, along with body fat measurements and other health indicators. The county gave a $75 gift certificate to each employee who participated.
“By far, the majority of our employees took advantage of this event,” the Judge reported. The county paid the health provider to manage the screenings; the only requirement from the provider was at least 20 participants at each screening location.
“While there was a cost to the county, it was worth it if it keeps us healthier,” Schuchart emphasized.
This spring Schuchart anticipates an employee health fair and perhaps another Walk Across Medina County challenge.
“I think the important thing is that we keep things going,” Schuchart stated. “Those who have participated in activities so far have had a good time, and many of those who haven’t have commented, ‘We should have done this!’ My hope is that in years to come, we will get even more participation.”