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Monday, May 18, 2015

Our Community's Health

Posted by: Jeff Rea, Chamber President and CEO on Monday, May 18, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Seven years ago I made the personal decision that I wanted to be healthier. Though I didn’t necessarily feel unhealthy, I, like many, had added a few pounds every year after college to the point where a routine health screening at work had Nurse Connie put me in the “obese” category.

I didn’t like those words, and made a conscious decision to not let my first heart attack be the thing that convinced me I need to be healthy. But I didn’t want to be on a “diet.” Instead, I changed my lifestyle, ate better and exercised. I didn’t try to lose it all at once, and I began a two year journey where I eventually lost about eighty pounds.

Though not excited to be the poster child for the fat guy that got skinny, my journey was very public and gave me many opportunities to share my experiences and the highlights and lowlights along the way. For me, my progress meant I felt better, I had more energy, I was more productive, I handled stress better, I even slept better. The community cheered me on and encouraged me along the way.

Interesting to think how I encountered Nurse Connie in the first place. At the time, like many CEOs, I was concerned about rising health costs in the company and what that was doing to the bottom line. Our health costs had skyrocketed and like many organizations, almost every new dollar was being eaten up by those increasing costs. That left little at the end of the day for other things like employee raises, new equipment or other key projects.

Truth was the only way to really help combat this issue long-term was to have a healthier workforce. So I thought why not do simple assessments for employees where they could better understand their current condition and maybe chart a new course for their own personal health and for that of their family. I had to lead by example and anxiously signed up for my assessment. I’m glad did, it’s what I needed to get me started.

Employee health costs have risen faster than virtually every other cost category for businesses. Businesses small and large have studied and implemented plans to help combat those rising costs. Any while cost is an important factor, it’s not the only consideration for business. Healthier employees have been found to be more productive, are absent less, have less stress, have a better attitude in addition to having less expenditures.

Other benefits include having employees with more energy which helps employees stay more focused when they are on the job. Healthy employees tend to have a higher level of self-confidence in themselves and inspires confidence in others around them. Employees, who set fitness goals and stay motivated to exercise also tend to be more goal-oriented at work.

Indiana traditionally hasn’t fared well when comparing health statistics with other states, usually ranking in the bottom ten. Smoking and obesity are two of those categories where we score the worst and studies indicate a high prevalence of physical inactivity as being a major contributing factor to our poor rankings.

For Indiana and our area to grow as we desire, we all have to make a conscious decision to be healthier. The health of our communities is being evaluated by people considering Indiana as it says a lot about our state, who we are, and what is important to us. Let’s change what the rest of the Country thinks of us.