President Preckwinkle today announced a broad worksite wellness initiative, “Spring Into Health!” to engage Cook County’s 22,000 employees in a culture of health and fitness. As part of her commitment to lead by example, Ms. Preckwinkle has designed the new program to foster a healthy work environment that will ensure employees and their families make positive lifestyle choices.
Through a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the county will now provide a comprehensive wellness program accessible to all employees. Spring Into Health! will be offered at no cost to employees, and at no cost to taxpayers.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Heart Association, and our friends in labor have been invaluable in helping craft a wellness plan that will engage our workforce,” President Preckwinkle said. “We are hoping to reach employees at every department, at every level, and show them that leading a healthy lifestyle is possible with Cook County as a partner.”
“The American Heart Association is proud to work with President Preckwinkle and Cook County leadership to implement comprehensive, cost-efficient and lasting health and wellness programming,” said Dr. Stephen Archer, American Heart Association Metro Chicago Board President. “We applaud President Preckwinkle and her team for making health a priority in the county’s culture. The Spring into Health! initiative is an important first step in saving lives now. The AHA hopes other entities and organizations join Cook County in making a commitment to worksite wellness.”
In framing the program, President Preckwinkle collaborated with labor leaders from the Teamsters, Fraternal Order of Police, Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Coalition of Unionized Public Employees, Service Employees International Union, and the Doctor’s Council to engage the county’s workforce and help promote the benefits.
“We have reached out to our members and emphasized the unique opportunity that Spring Into Health! offers Cook County employees,” said Billy Logan, president of Teamsters Local 700. “For the first time, we have committed leadership at the county, taking the health concerns of our workers seriously, and taking action to do something that will improve their lives.”
“It has been a privilege to collaborate with President Preckwinkle and her administration to craft a program that will truly engage the average worker,” said Betty Boles, vice president of SEIU Local 73. “This is a comprehensive approach that offers information and solutions to take control of your own health.”
Spring Into Health! will utilize a variety of comprehensive, long-term and preventative health promotion activities to accomplish employee goals. These include health education, screening programs and social support. Some of the key initiatives of Spring Into Health! include:
- Health Fairs
In April, the program kicks off with five health fairs at various county locations. The fairs will increase awareness by providing health screenings, activities, materials, demonstrations, and health information. Screenings and information will be provided by a diverse array of organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Caremark, Cook County Health and Hospital System and Cook County Department of Public Health. Services will include weight, BMI and A1C tests, massage and physical therapists, healthy cooking demonstrations, and information and educational materials.
- Know Your Numbers
Employees will be able to take Health Risk Assessments – an online, 10-15 minute questionnaire that tracks health behaviors. Facilitated by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the HRAs are confidential, and can be filled out at home, work, at a public computer or at kiosks at the health fair. They will also receive 2,500 Blue Points via the Blue Cross Blue Shield website, which can be redeemed for items such as digital jump ropes and music downloads.
- Walking Works
The Walking Works program is a voluntary program focused on promoting physical activity through a team-based challenge. Participating employees receive pedometers, which they will use to track their daily walking activity. Monthly prizes will be awarded based on mileage logged. Pedometers are also available at any of the health fairs.
- Wellness Council
Another key component of Spring Into Health! is the Wellness Council, convened by President Preckwinkle to develop comprehensive, long-term and preventative programming. The Wellness Council will ensure that appropriate methods and experts are utilized to provide a wholistic and engaging experience for Cook County employees.
Employees will reap substantial benefits from participating in Spring Into Health!, but so will taxpayers. Studies have shown that health risks decreases after the implementation of a comprehensive worksite wellness program. This, in turn, will lead to increased government savings due to reduced health care costs, absenteeism and workers’ compensations claims.
“President Preckwinkle and her staff are breaking new ground by investing in the health and well-being of Cook County employees and their family members,” said J. Todd Phillips, Vice President – Illinois Local Markets & Sales Strategy. “This investment will pay dividends not only for those individuals but also for all residents of, and visitors to, Cook County for many years to come. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois enthusiastically supports President Preckwinkle’s vision and we are proud to partner with Cook County to make that vision a reality.”
The pathway to better health can be a long one, and requires commitment. The launch of Spring Into Health! is the first step in a collaborative effort that will extend throughout the year, and for years to come. As the data regarding Cook County employees’ collective health rolls in and is analyzed, programming and communications will be developed to tackle those specific issues and meet ongoing needs. Cook County employees have a long-term partner in President Preckwinkle and the means to accomplish their goals with Spring Into Health!