MILLERSBURG -- Already having transitioned into being self-insured, now the Holmes County commissioners are considering options to help county workers stay ahead of the curve when it comes to maintaining good health.
"It's an extension of the commissioners' commitment to getting ahead of the game on claims," said county Human Resources Director Misty Burns, who is actively exploring all available opportunities.
"Preventative care can really help us in the long term," Burns said.
On behalf of Pomerene Hospital, Tara Martin, wellness coordinator, and Nicole Kolacz, chief nursing officer/vice president of patient services, recently discussed with the commissioners information on a wellness program offered by the hospital.
Research shows every $1 spent on wellness results in a $1.50-$3 return on the investment, said Martin.
In a time when prescription drug costs continue to rise and national health care costs have increased 20 percent over five years, she said, tending to chronic diseases -- diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer, heart disease -- is critical to managing costs and preventing illness.
To that end, Martin said, "At Pomerene, our main focus Is our community's health. The county, the employees here, are our community. We don't want to just see people when they're sick."
To that end, Martin said, the hospital's wellness program, first and foremost, emphasizes lifestyle changes, which are encouraged by health education and wellness -- better food choices, weight monitoring, routine blood work and personal counseling that addresses not only physical well-being, but financial, spiritual, social, environmental, intellectual, emotional and occupational health.
"Eighty percent of diseases and conditions are self-inflicted. It's lifestyle," Kolacz said.
They work to manage and mitigate risks through screenings and planned changes, paths to which are provided through tobacco cessation programming, stress reduction, nutritional education and physical activity.
"They're all interlinked," she said, explaining Pomerene's wellness program begins with a self-reporting health risk assessment and biometric health screening, the meaning of which participants are counseled on.
She suggested a weight loss challenge as an effective means to pique interest among employees, pitting the two largest departments -- job and family services and the engineer's office -- against each other in an eight-week program.
The cost of participation in Pomerene's wellness program is based on the number of employees and number of employees participating in the program, with an additional charge assessed if the county would elect to implement a weight loss challenge.
The programs work, Martin said, pulling from data from a 21-day weight loss challenge that was completed by 104 of 110 employees who started the plan.
At the end of the challenge, employees lost a total of 360 pounds and 116 inches, and that gained 66.2 points on body fat percentages.
"It was a big change in just 21 days," she said, noting, "Just by having people do it together and supporting each other, they make it more successful."
To better help county employees meet their wellness goals, Martin said, Pomerene is making available to them membership at the hospital's medical fitness center, Kinetics, at a rate competitive to that of The Club at Berlin Resort.
All Kinetics memberships, she said, include new member assessments to establish personalized programs.
While participation in a wellness program has to be voluntary, employers can implement incentives, including reduced premiums, to encourage participation, said Martin, who encouraged the commissioners to consider Pomerene's proven success as a local provider of services when contemplating a future wellness plan for the county.
It's a concept all three commissioners say they're behind.
"We need to do it. How and to what extent is up for later discussion," said Commissioner Joe Miller.
The recent beneficiary of screening information that identified health risks, Commissioner Rob Ault said he's on his own wellness plan, one in which he has lost 38 pounds in two months.
During that time, he said, he's also seen improvements in his blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
"I'm not on a diet. It's a lifestyle. I'm not doing it for today; I'm doing it for 25 years from now.
"It's the same thing with a vehicle ... you've got to put the maintenance into it," said Ault, adding he wants county employees to know "we do care."
"Something like this would be a great starting point," he said.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.