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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Healthy, wealthy, and wise: What worksite wellness means to people ... and how Extension helps


Employers increasingly offer worksite wellness programs to employees, for good reason: a 2010 analysis in Health Affairs showed a decrease of $3.27 in medical expenses and $2.73 saved in absenteeism costs for every dollar invested in worksite wellness programs.

OSU Extension's Family and Consumer Sciences(FCS) educators give these efforts a much-needed shot in the arm.

"We can invite people to our educational programs, but it often works better if we go to them," said Lisa Barlage, the FCS educator in Ross County who has offered wellness programs not only in the county government building where she works but at the area's major employers, including Kenworth Corp., Glatfelter Corp., local school districts, and Ohio University's Chillicothe branch.

"We've changed a lot of our habits at work. ... It's really getting ingrained in our staff."—Leslie Hartley

"Organizations are looking at ways to cut expenses on health insurance," Barlage said. "In many cases, if they can show ways they are working to improve the health of their employees, it helps them out."

One of those organizations is the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library, where librarian Leslie Hartley works with Barlage to keep its wellness program strong.

Better food, fitness -- and morale

The result? "We've changed a lot of our habits at work," Hartley said. "At meetings, we've cut out sweets and instead offer healthy snacks, like yogurt, granola, or fresh fruit. We have fitness breaks at in-service meetings. And now, it's really getting ingrained in our staff. Even when we have potlucks, we don't even have to ask people to bring something healthy. It just naturally happens."  

The worksite wellness program has boosted morale, too, Hartley said.

"We really felt the effect of the economy the last few years. We've had layoffs, and everyone has taken cuts in pay or hours. But we persevered through all of that, and the wellness program helped us through that rough time."

The library's program has been noticed, winning Healthy Ohio's Healthy Worksite Awardthree years in a row, and a Psychologically Healthy Worksite Award from the Ohio Psychological Association in 2011.

"Our program wouldn't be as successful as it has been without Extension," Hartley said.

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-- Martha Filipic, Communications and Technology