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Happy, healthy, productive employees. That’s the goal of the City of Greenville’s wellness program for City employees. The hidden benefit is reduced health care costs – saving taxpayers money.

Creating a culture of wellness is not easy and it’s not something you do overnight. The City has been working on this since 1984, but took a very active approach starting in 2010. At that time, the City moved to a self-funded insurance and was looking for other ways to cut health care costs.

“Studies show that 70-80% of chronic illnesses are completely preventable by a healthy lifestyle,” said Frank Salvato, the City’s Wellness Coordinator. “If we can get our employees to be healthier, they will need to go to the doctor less often, and subsequently, the City will spend less on health insurance claims.”

From establishing walking trails, to purchasing bicycles for employees to check out, to giving employees financial incentives to be healthy, the City is using a variety of approaches to accomplish this cultural shift. The City even put healthy food alternatives in vending machines in offices around the city.

Salvato said, “We have to offer good tasting, healthy alternatives to fatty chips and candy bars. Sometimes those foods are more expensive, so we got a grant from Communities Putting Prevention to Work to offset those costs. Now those items cost 5-10 cents cheaper and water is 25 cents less than soda.”

City leaders expect the program to pay off financially for the City with reduced health care costs in about 3-4 years. The payoff from employees feeling better should be more immediate. “If employees are exercising and eating better,” said Salvato, “they should start feeling better within a week or two. The better they feel, the more productive they will be at home and at work; also the more motivated they will be to get their families into healthier habits. Before you know it, the culture has changed to more of a wellness orientation.”

For more information about this program, please contact Frank Salvato at 329-4493.

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