Move the needle on employee health

By Jami Haberl | Guest Column

Iowa has the fourth highest adult obesity rate in the nation. Think about your workplace environment and if you are combating or contributing to this epidemic:

  • Does your employer provide healthy food for celebrations or meetings?
  • Are there accessible opportunities for physical activity during the workday?
  • How are employees being supported emotionally?

Adult Iowans spend the majority of their waking hours at their places of employment. And, unfortunately, the workplace is often not an environment that encourages healthy behaviors: Pizza in the breakroom, hours of sitting at a desk and stress-inducing work are commonplace.

Employers should have a vested interest in the health of their employees because it is comes with a hefty price tag if they don’t. Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs in the nation, with the total ranging from $147 billion to $210 billion each year, including the costs of absenteeism and reduced productivity, according to a paper published by Dr. Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

As a local business leader in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor, you have an opportunity to make a difference by signing up your organization as a 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! registered workplace. Our workplaces have the unique ability to positively influence healthy habits of both employees and the children in their lives through workplace wellness programming.

As adults, we are the role models for our state’s future generations. The vitality and sustainability of Iowa’s workforce depends on reversing the trend and moving our state in a healthier direction. No workplace is too big or too small to invest in workplace wellness.

Many of the action items suggested by 5-2-1-0 in the Workplace are low- to no-cost opportunities. Not only will signing up as a 5-2-1-0 Registered Workplace improve the health of your employees and affect your bottom line, but your organization will join a multi-sector movement happening across the state.

Gov. Kim Reynolds launched 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! in October 2017 as a childhood health initiative. It is now used statewide by communities, health care clinics, schools and early care sites. It is a proven, scientific method that focuses on the importance of good habits.

Healthy choices are encouraged with four numbers:

  • 5 or more fruits or vegetables each day
  • 2 hours or less of recreational screen time
  • 1 hour or more of physical activity
  • 0 sugary drinks – drink more water

The resources of 5-2-1-0 in the Workplace can be used to start a wellness program, enhance an existing one or evaluate past or current wellness efforts. Registration is free and can be completed at Registered workplaces will also receive statewide recognition, an exclusive quarterly newsletter and eligibility to apply for a Healthiest State Annual Workplace Award, among other benefits.

No matter your company size or sector – startup or corporation, blue-collar or white-collar, for-profit or nonprofit – register your workplace to affirm your commitment to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your employees. We want Iowans of all ages to hear the 5-2-1-0 message and be inspired to make healthier choices about what they eat, drink and do every day.  •

Jami Haberl is executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative.