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Calvert Commissioners move to create wellness committee

 

Prince Frederick, MD – The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the creation of a Wellness Committee last Tuesday, with the intention of “promot[ing] the health and wellness of county employees.”

The ten- to twenty-person committee will function under the county’s Human Resource Department and be comprised of county employees who are appointed by the BOCC. The memorandum from the county’s Director of Human Resources, Paula Gray, explained that the committee will “motivate colleagues to make wellness efforts throughout the day.” The committee will do so by influencing “healthier lifestyle choices.”

Members of the committee will serve two-year terms and are ineligible from serving more than three consecutive terms. The creation of the committee is covered by the county’s health insurance provider, CareFirst, who “allots $10,000 for wellness initiatives each plan year (July-June),” according to the memorandum.

Calvert joins Charles County with the creation of the Wellness Committee, leaving St. Mary’s as the only government in Southern Maryland lacking the committee.

Some benefits to wellness programs, outlined by health.gov, include lower health costs, increased productivity, healthier employees, and inspiration of important behavior changes. Calvert’s memorandum on the committee states, "Studies show lifestyle change programs can cut the risks of developing a chronic disease by nearly 60 percent.”

A 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed that 63 percent of government workers have access to wellness programs. Studies conducted on wellness programs in response to rising health care and insurance costs have suggested that the initiative is an effective way to save money. Specifically, a 2009 study by The People-to-People Health Foundation found that “medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.37.”

However, the move towards wellness programs is not without its detractors. A recent study conducted by Dr. Zirui Song, a health policy researcher at Harvard Medical School, and Katherine Baicker, dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, concluded that there were “no significant differences” in self-reported health behaviors, other than regular exercise rates and active management of weight. The study found that having wellness programs had little effect on “clinical markers of health; health care spending or utilization; or absenteeism, tenure, or job performance after 18 months.”

The motion to create the committee quickly passed 5-0.

Contact Jerold at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.

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