Panhandle businesses garner awards for worksite wellness efforts

September 21, 2018

GERING — For the past 11 years, Panhandle worksites who participate in wellness programs have been recognized at the annual Panhandle Safety and Wellness Conference for encouraging their employees to live better, healthier lives.

On Thursday, four local businesses received the Governor’s Wellness Award. A total of 38 Nebraska employers representing 24 communities were honored across the state for offering evidence-based worksite wellness programs for their employees.

The awards have two categories. The Sower Award recognizes workplaces that have established quality wellness programs; the Grower Award honors businesses and organizations demonstrating significant improvement in employee health behaviors.

Chadron Community Hospital and Regional West Health Services received the sower level awards while Cirrus House and the Hemingford Telephone Company/Mobius Communications received the grower award.

For members and staff at Cirrus House, they have become more active in walking and using their mini gym in the basement of their building, often participating in physical activity together.

“Even though there are identifiable health benefits, it has also increased morale,” said Brent Anderson, executive director at Cirrus House. “As an agency, we are doing this and it’s actually making the work day go by faster and I feel more energized.”

Anderson said in the past he often sat at his desk until his work was finished, but has found that getting up and stretching throughout the day has resulted in being more productive.

According to Judy Martin, deputy director of Community and Environmental Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, in the past year, award recipients increased the percentage of people meeting Surgeon General Guidelines for Physical Activity by more than 25 percent, reduced tobacco use by 12 percent, and decreased obesity by five percent. This great work also continues to help manage stress and improve the culture within these organizations, Martin said.

The awards recognize businesses that dedicate leadership, resources and time to wellness efforts in the workplace. Those ideals were what set Annie Loutzenhiser apart as she was posthumously recognized for the inaugural Leading Light Award.

Loutzenhiser, who died in July, was the inspiration for the new award, in part because of her dedication and leadership to the council advisory committee and the commitment to her organization’s wellness initiatives Loutzenhiser spent countless hours making her place of employment a healthier one.

Jessica Davies, assistant health director, Panhandle Public Health District, worked with Loutzenhiser and said she was witty and had a great sense of humor.

“Those traits she possessed for leadership, that’s what we’re going to honor from now on,” Davies said.

Panhandle Coop was also recognized with the Nebraska Safety Council Award, which is designed for a Nebraska Safety Council member organization that encourages and promotes the prevention of occupational injuries and illness in the workplace.

Nebraska employers can apply for the Governor’s Wellness Award online at www.nebraska.gov/wellness. Awards are presented annually and are good for three years. The award program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, DHHS, and the Nebraska Safety Council/WorkWell. For employers interested in starting a wellness program or enhancing an existing one, contact WorkWell at 402-483-2511 ext. 109.

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