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S. Fla. Businesses Honored For Keeping Workers Well

Shaneeva Yassin, Web Journalist & Producer
CBSMiami.com

MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – South Florida companies that go the extra mile in helping to keep their employees were honored at a forum Friday hosted by CBS4′s Shannon Hori.

The third annual 2011 Worksite Wellness Forum and Awards luncheon was held on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa. The awards recognized the important strides local businesses have made in improving the health and well-being of their employees.

The program honored South Florida companies from Orlando south. The winner of the small business category – businesses with less than 500 employees, went to Seitlin Insurance and Advisory Services – a privately owned and independent insurance and advisory service company with 135 employees.

The mid-sized category winner – businesses with 500 to 1,000 employees – went to Community Health of South Florida, Inc., a private non-profit Federally Qualified Healthcare Center located in Homestead with 565 employees.

The winner of the large business category – businesses with more than 1,000 employees – went to the School Board of Broward County, the nation's sixth largest fully accredited K-12 and adult school system, with 28,653 employees.

At the event, Lillian Rivera, RN, MSN, Ph.D., Administrator of the Miami-Dade County Health Department provided an inspirational message to help employers increase participation in their wellness programs. Diane Canova, JD, Vice President of Policy and Programs at Partnership for Prevention, delivered the Keynote Address, providing the national perspective on the state of employee wellness. The theme of the address complemented the $14.7 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant from the Centers for Disease Control awarded to the Miami-Dade County Health Department. The grant also includes a worksite wellness component.

Judges scored each nomination, and the company in each category with the highest score. The winners were honored at the ceremony.

"In an era of rising healthcare costs and increased risk for chronic diseases, this program is essential for educating the local business community about the many wonderful benefits that worksite wellness programs provide," said Dr. Rivera. Business owners, managers, human resource professionals, insurance brokers and those interested in wellness attended the luncheon.

More than half of healthcare costs are due to preventable unhealthy lifestyles and stress. Tobacco and alcohol use, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition all contribute to increased health costs.

Many employers have already experienced the vast benefits of a healthier workforce, including reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, as well as an overall improvement in staff morale and company loyalty that can be produced with comprehensive worksite wellness programs.

Studies have shown that programs in the workplace to help employees stay well help businesses have a healthier workforce with happier employees. Often, studies have shown, employees will make healthier choices when joining with co-workers than they might do on their own, or agree to take part because it's convenient at work.

Employers have found that in many cases, employees don't know where to get on their own the information workplace wellness programs provide. In many cases, the workplace wellness program provides services that an employee might otherwise have to pay for.

Companies have to devote time and money to create the programs, but often see concrete results in the form of less employee illness, fewer missed days, and even in a reduction in insurance claims.

In order to be nominated, a company had to complete a form that allowed them to explain, step by step, what they have done in the past 12 months to help keep their employees well, such as health risk assessments, nutrition, exercise programs, programs for quitting smoking, and programs to help reduce stress, among other efforts.

The nomination form asked for employee success stories, and wanted to know how businesses plan to continue the program in the future.

Past winners include Baptist Health Systems and Florida Power and Light, in the large business category. Henderson Mental Health Center was the 2010 Mid-size business recipient, while the 2009 winner in that category was Community Health of South Florida.

Small business can also have effective programs, as proven by the programs of the 2010 recipient, Camillus House, and the 2009 winner, Seitlin.

The program is also designed to encourage other organizations to join the effort when they see the benefits that workplace wellness programs provide.

The Miami-Dade County Health Department initiated the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade in 2003 to address the increasing rates of chronic diseases in the local community. The Consortium is comprised of community agencies that work in collaboration to promote healthy lifestyles including a healthy diet, regular physical activity and not using tobacco products. The Worksite Wellness Committee is a workgroup of volunteers dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles in the work setting by sharing information on best practices and by creating partnerships to implement worksite wellness activities.

For more information on the program, visit www.healthymiamidade.org

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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