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City of Brainerd wellness program promotes city employee fitness

The Brainerd City Council Monday took steps to promoting a healthier lifestyle for city employees by encouraging them to take more physical steps. Katie Kaufman, recreation specialist for the Brainerd Parks and Recreation department, updated the ...

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The wellness scorecard allows city employees to score points for different things related to wellness, Katie Kaufman, recreation specialist for the Brainerd Parks and Recreation department said. Things like attending the health fair or going to the gym a certain amount of time per month can rack up points. Illustration.

The Brainerd City Council Monday took steps to promoting a healthier lifestyle for city employees by encouraging them to take more physical steps.

Katie Kaufman, recreation specialist for the Brainerd Parks and Recreation department, updated the council on the recent progress of the city's Wellness Committee.

The group of 10 employees is tasked with creating, promoting, developing, maintaining and motivating healthy lifestyles and encouraging healthy habits, Kaufman said.

Healthier lifestyles lead to healthier employees, which is why some of the group's goals have to do with reducing health care costs for the city. The group's goals are:

• Reducing worker's compensation costs by 30 percent by 2020, using 2014 as a baseline.

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• Reducing hours of sick leave used by 5 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016, again using 2014 as a baseline.

• Have 50 percent of city staff turn in a wellness scorecard with core requirements completed. Increase that to 75 percent of employees in 2016.

• Host a health fair attended by 75 percent of city staff.

The wellness scorecard allows employees to score points for different things related to wellness, Kaufman said. Things like attending the health fair or going to the gym a certain amount of time per month can rack up points.

The person with the most points at the end of the year is crowned wellness champion, and awarded a traveling trophy that goes from champion to champion, Kaufman said.

Brainerd Human Resources Coordinator Kris Schubert, joining Kaufman for the presentation, said Kaufman is actually the city's current wellness champion.

"She has done an outstanding job leading us and guiding us through this," Schubert said. "She's been very instrumental in doing very good presentations and giving us information."

For every 100 points an employee scores, they get a ticket to be entered into winning a grand prize. The prize should be something benefiting all employees, which is why the prize the committee came up with is one extra vacation day.

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The council approved a motion designating the one vacation day as a grand prize, provided the grant funds funding the program can be used to pay for it.

The wellness program is funded through a $7,500 grant from the National Joint Powers Alliance, the same service co-op that provides the city's health insurance, Schubert said.

"We're not using city of Brainerd tax money, per se, to pay for this," Schubert said.

For the two years the city has gotten the grant, the funds have gone towards providing incentive for employees to get their annual physical and fill out an online health assessment.

"Those are the two core components of our wellness program, in order to get our funding, employees need to participate in that," Schubert said.

Funds have also funded informative lunches and a kickball team.

"It also helps pay for those incentives for employees to participate," Schubert said.

City Council President Gary Scheeler said the program's efforts will be a "big benefit" to the city, as it will help keep insurance costs down.

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"I think the return should be huge," Scheeler said.

City Council member Gabe Johnson echoed Scheeler's sentiments.

"I hope this does become something, because a healthy workforce is a happy workforce," Johnson said. "And nothing but good things could come of it."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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