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Wealth of Health: Monroe County

Monroe County wants its employees to be physically, emotionally and fiscally fit.
 
That’s a big reason why it co-sponsors Rochester Wellfest, an annual wellness fair at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Employees of the county, city and Rochester City School District get paid time off and a shuttle ride to check out the daylong gathering of wellness vendors, including nutritionists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and yoga and fitness class teachers.
 
"The event is always a huge success, thanks to everyone’s participation," says Janice Toland, wellness coordinator in the county’s human resources department.
 
Since 2006, Monroe County has offered a data-driven wellness program for its 4,600 employees as well as for retirees.
 
The county launched a key component of its wellness efforts last year when it retained the Greater Rochester Independent Practice Association for the clinical integration program. This connects physicians, hospitals, labs, pharmacies and imaging facilities via electronic access to patient information. As a result of the connectivity, health care providers can help county employees better manage serious or chronic health conditions.
 
The county offers its workers educational programs on seasonal affective disorder, smoking cessation, gastroesophageal reflux disease awareness, outdoor cooking, coping with holiday stress and other topics.
 
Employees also participate in the Eat Well, Live Well Challenge; 467 individuals took part during 2011, a 31 percent rise from 357 in 2010.
 
Concerned with employees’ fiscal well-being, the county developed a retirement preparation program that featured presentations by experts on defined-benefit pensions, defined-contribution funds and Social Security. The county also links cash incentives to healthy lifestyles through the HealthyBlue program, which pays a family up to $1,000 per year for maintaining healthy habits.
 
Overall, more than 1,500 county employees participated in at least one wellness program during 2011. Toland, who works with colleagues in the human resources department to organize and deliver these programs, also is establishing a wellness committee. She believes that wellness initiatives are critical to the health and safety of any work population.
 
"We’re trying to educate our community members and their families about important issues, such as obesity prevention," Toland says. "An environment that supports wellness yields employees who are happier, healthier and more productive."

6/8/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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