Discounted memberships to Springfield-Greene County Park Board facilities and the Dickerson Park Zoo can be a healthy motivator.
Such is the case at the city of Springfield, where those incentives are offered to participating employees as part of its inBalance wellness program.
“We saw a huge increase in self-reported physical activity,” says Audrey Cova, inBalance coordinator, after the new perks were introduced.
Started in 2011 as a direct response to employee requests, inBalance has a roughly 50% participation rate among the city’s 1,800 full-time employees.
“Healthier employees are more productive and ultimately happier,” Cova says. “One thing that I think is cool and unique to our program is that it was something that wasn’t actually started by leadership. It was from an employee interest survey.”
Cova says she runs the day-to-day operations of the inBalance program, and she reports to a committee with representatives from 16 of the city’s largest departments, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the city manager’s office.
The inBalance program touches on multiple areas of wellness, whether that’s exercise or eating healthy foods. Lunch-and-learn sessions are offered to give a sense of community and education around wellness, and participants learn about financial wellness, managing stress, diabetes education and other topics. Cooking classes are among the plan’s amenities, and a healthy fruit program tracks the amount of consumption among participants. In the last six months, city employees have consumed more than 2,500 pounds of fruit, officials say.
For their successful participation in the program, incentives come into play. Employees can gain a 75% discounted membership to all Springfield-Greene County Park family centers and the Cooper Tennis Complex, as well as a 20% discounted membership to the zoo, gift cards and other incentives.
City officials point to positive results brought about by the inBalance program.
For example, they’ve charted a 50% increase in employees reporting physical activity engagement for five or more days per week and a 31% decrease in staff members who show five or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Officials also say while the annual health care cost increase in the region is roughly 12%, the city’s group health plan has experienced a roughly 1.5% annual increase in health care costs, in part, because of the inBalance program.
“Since we are self-insured, we can see those cost savings from a health standpoint,” Cova says.
The city of Springfield also works to spread wellness throughout the community.
The Springfield-Greene County Park Board hosts events throughout the year, including the Community Wide Play Day, Turkey Trot, Kid’Athlon, Run for Fun Club and a National Skating month event. The Health Department’s communitywide walking challenge has averaged some 1,500 participants each year, and the department partners with Ozarks Greenways on the annual Bike, Walk & Wheel Week.
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