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May 28, 2010 > County recognized for employee fitness and well-being programs

County recognized for employee fitness and well-being programs

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Marina Hinestrosa

On May 25, 2010, Santa Clara County accepted the highest recognition the American Heart Association awards to employers that promote physical activity and health in the work place. The County achieved the Platinum level in the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program, for going "above and beyond" when promoting employees' health.

"We're very proud of this recognition. It means we're making progress in our goal to promote a healthy workforce," said Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Vice Chair of the Board's Health and Hospital Committee. "Encouraging a culture of physical activity is the best way to increase healthy behaviors."

According to the American Heart Association, many adults in the US spend most of their waking hours in front of a desk because of their jobs. Santa Clara County is no exception. Aware that sedentary careers could increase the risk for health problems connected to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, the County has designed programs to encourage activity and exercise whenever possible.

Santa Clara County offers several health and wellness programs: from mini-health fairs, health screenings, consultations and information from health providers, to classes on a variety of health and wellness topics, and activity programs.

"Active employees are healthier employees," said Supervisor Liz Kniss, Chair of the Boards' Health and Hospital Committee. "I hope these programs also help our employees' families understand how important it is to exercise and stay active."

This is the second award the American Heart Association has presented to Santa Clara County. Last year, the County received the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program Gold Award.

"The County received the Platinum Award this year because we've demonstrates an increase in employee's participation and activity over and above the level for which we received the Gold Award," said Lance Sposito, Director of Risk Management and Manager of the Employee Wellness Program. "Employees have been very responsive to the health and fitness campaigns that the County has encouraged, provided and supported."

In 2009, more than 5,600 Santa Clara County employees participated in County-sponsored mini health fairs, health screenings, health consultations, wellness classes and presentations compared to 4,756 in 2008.

Participation has also increased in efforts such as the County's March into May Program, a 10-week activity program that encourages employees to do a physical exercise of their choice and set their personal goals to achieve a desired level of exercise. In 2008, 879 employees completed the March to May Program. Last year, 2,091 completed the program.

Other on-going County efforts include Bike-to-work days, Smoke-Free Cessation classes for those who want to stop smoking, the Step-it-up program, which encourages employees to use the stairs instead of elevators, healthy food standards at County-sponsored events and increasing healthy food options at County facilities. The County acknowledges employees, who take the initiative to motivate others to follow outdoor or indoor workout routines, and is also considering supporting an agricultural drop-off at the County Government Center in the future.

"Our employees are our most valuable resource," said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. "We're pleased with the results of our efforts to ensure our employees are active and healthy. Not only does the County benefit, they do too."

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