Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 19, 2013

IU pushes for a healthier workforce

New committee will create campus-specific initiatives and programs.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Indiana University is pushing for a healthier workplace to reduce health care costs and improve employee morale.

Officials announced this week that IU is forming a new wellness steering committee to come up with a system-wide plan to foster better health within the university community.

The committee’s goal, according to the university, is to help IU employees live healthier lives and keep down health care costs by initiating new, campus-specific wellness programs.

As part of its mission, the new committee will work with health and fitness organizations on all campuses and university communities to provide IU employees with easy access to new and existing wellness programs and educational resources. In addition, it will explore the creation of a new website that would include links to such information as class schedules, campus-specific walking maps, ideas for office workouts, stress relief tips and testimonials.

Committee members, who are subject area experts and university campus leaders, will also try to find incentives that motivate employees to take control of their personal health.

More than 40 percent of all health care expenses in the U.S. stem from preventable chronic illnesses that are most often caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices like physical inactivity, tobacco use and unhealthy eating habits, said IU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer MaryFrances McCourt.

“Studies have shown that maintaining a healthier workforce can have a tremendous impact on direct costs such as insurance premiums, but we’re also looking just as much at important indirect costs such as employee morale, recruitment and retention and enhanced workplace culture,” McCourt said. “IU employees deserve to be happy, healthy and enthusiastic about their own commitment to being there for their families, friends and loved ones for the long haul.”

The committee will draw on the expertise of students and faculty in IU’s two new schools of public health on the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis campus and on the Bloomington campus. The committee expects to make its recommendations for new programs and initiatives in the spring semester, the university reported.

The university’s office of the president has pledged to financially back those recommendations.

“Wellness, in itself, is not complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot,” McCourt said. “But it is a commitment. I’m extremely excited about the work this committee will do to energize IU employees to make that commitment and find activities that will make them feel better about themselves and the places they work.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com