Proactive approach, grant money and a committed team bring positive change for Crook County employees

Crook County celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2007. Shortly after that observance, a handful of County employees implemented a celebration of their own kind - a kickoff to employee wellness, celebrating the journey to good health for the public employees.

Let’s go back to about 2008: The Insurance Committee for Crook County sent a pretty clear message - one common to many other counties and private organizations - that health care costs are rising and we can’t keep up with the costs.

A few Crook County employees responded. They collected employee feedback, applied for grant money and began assembling a committed team of wellness champions. With a Healthy Communities grant in hand from Oregon Public Health, they began to articulate a wellness program vision for county employees.

Here are a few formative steps these dedicated employees took:

  • They built interest among County employees.
  • They spearheaded wellness discussions at department meetings.
  • They invited any and all interested employees to participate in the discussions.
  • Crook County sent an all-employee notice to invite them to attend department meetings. The first meeting was held in January 2011 and served as the springboard for its wellness program - nicely timed with a New Year’s resolution kick start.

Making the commitment with leadership support

Although these grassroots efforts were a good start and did their part to fuel enthusiasm for the cause, it became clear that support from County leadership was necessary to move beyond interest and move to adoption and action. After developing a wellness vision and mission statement, the Wellness Team presented the program to county leadership, hoping for support and adoption. The "Team" made compelling arguments for launching the program, arguments that included reduced absenteeism, long-term savings in health care costs, and healthier and more productive employees - all of which contributed to eventual program recognition and adoption by county leadership.

Ideas keep interest high

The Team needed more than just support from leadership, though. They also needed a way to spread the word and keep employees interested and active. They introduced the following components to keep employees aware and engaged:

  • Monthly newsletters
  • Health-related guest speakers
  • Health forums focusing on proactive and preventive approaches to good health
  • Providence HealthBalance newsletters
  • Promotion of area-specific LifeBalance discounts, like gym discounts.

And, they’ve been successful

The Team has realized many accomplishments in the last few years. Although participation in certain activities peaked and waned, they have met a lot of milestones:

  • Completing the Oregon online worksite assessment
  • Holding numerous forums with guest speakers, including doctors, acupuncturists, and parks and recreation activities directors
  • Featuring expert columns in newsletters
  • Organizing walking groups
  • Influencing county policy ideas (such as proposing a tobacco-free campus and healthy vending machine options)
  • Promoting outside “Get Active” activities during the summer (walking groups twice a week that even took on the courthouse steps were popular)
  • Distributing walking maps and pedometers to encourage participation and engagement

They’ve learned a lot, too

A wellness program takes collaboration and dedication. For Crook County, the Team consisted of many committed individuals. Special kudos to Crook County's HR director, Health Department employees and District Attorney's Office employees.

Principles count. Building a program based on values, vision, a clear mission and good intentions will last longer than a team based on “what money can buy.”

Newsletters work. This is true especially when they include employee stories and pictures.

Walking groups are valuable. They build collegiality and keep employees moving.

There are existing resources to leverage. For Crook County, their Providence account rep, Rachelle Nerseth, was and is very essential. She offered Providence tools and resources that employees appreciate and use. She offered newsletter to distribute and reminded Crook County about the many online tools available to members.