City of Sparks Human Resources Analyst Jill Valdez said a large event inviting all city employees to hear from licensed nutritionists, personal trainers and doctors helped boost employees' competency on how to make "real changes" in their lives.
"At this point in the year, we want our employees to get information and new ideas about how they can be more proactive in making those lifestyle changes," Valdez said. "We have a lot of employees excited about the (wellness) program and about 65 percent have taken advantage of fitness and nutrition counseling, private lab work-ups, preventative physical examinations or other types of proactive measures to find out what their health status is."
Valdez helped launch the program in August of 2013 and she organized cardiologists and nutritionists to speak to city employees and host Q&A sessions hoping to generate interest. The city also opened up a small fitness center for its employees inside the Legislative Building next to City Hall.
Valdez's overall goal is to see savings in the city budget, but she said it is still too early to tell if the amenities and services offered to employees are serving their designed purpose.
"It is still pretty early in the life of the program to make any long-term projections," she said. "Sixty five percent is an exciting number of people participating, considering we don't have any outside incentives other than small raffle prizes. Other companies may give a reduction in health insurance premiums, but we don't have any of that.
"We only have the motivational piece of education and enthusiasm in learning how to be proactive and be well today."
Valdez said she has received good feedback from participants and seen some employees making changes in the short time the program has been offered. She said some are "champions of the program" and will use "anything I offer them," but it is seeking out those who need help most that she is most concerned with.
"I think we will see our biggest return on investment with people who needed to make changes doing so," she said. "Many employees are using the program for their families as well because it covers anyone using the city's health insurance plans. So their children and spouses are welcome too.
"It is great to be a part of it and hear so many great stories from our employees, who are making changes to their routine and feeling better. A lot of times it is great to have a big event, but people really need to have that interaction face-to-face in small settings. Real changes happen in small settings."
Valdez said the luncheon Thursday was the year's primary large event for employees in the wellness program and the majority of the year would focus on smaller sessions to help encourage lifestyle changes and healthy habits.
The American Health Insurance Plan's website reported more than one-sixth of the United States economy is "devoted to health care spending," adding up to about $2.7 trillion spent annually on health care in 2011. Valdez said costs continue to rise and City of Sparks employees must find new, innovative ways to protect their health and their wallets.