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Appanoose County Wellness Coalition: Building a Healthier Community

Friday, May 11, 2018

In recent years, company wellness programs have risen in popularity. It’s no wonder. Studies have shown such programs can have a variety of positive benefits, including reducing healthcare costs, increasing productivity and boosting employee morale.

Since 2012, the Appanoose County Wellness Coalition has been working to help Appanoose residents become healthier overall. It’s an important goal, since half of American adults are expected to be obese by 2030.

Live Healthy The coalition is comprised of citizens, businesses, school nurses and staff from various nonprofits, the hospital and the public health department. Sarah Haluska chairs the coalition. She’s also a nurse who works on promoting employee health at Mercy Medical Center.

“Speaking for the hospital, it has made a huge difference here since we implemented a wellness program for employees. Our insurance rates have stayed low where others have gone up — that’s a huge benefit,” says Haluska.

In July of 2017, the coalition started teaming up with Live Healthy Iowa, a statewide initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation. The collaboration enables access to powerful tools, support and resources.

The coalition helped promote Live Healthy Iowa’s 10 Week Wellness Challenge, which ran from January to March. The goal of this friendly competition is to encourage people to be more active. Teams of people track fitness goals, such as minutes of activity and weight loss. Incentives are available to help motivate participants and add fun to the process.

In April, the Appanoose County Wellness Coalition partnered with Live Healthy Iowa and Monroe County to organize a 5K run at Rathbun Lake. The event exceeded expectations, with 65 people participating.

The coalition is also working on outreach to schools to teach youth the importance exercising every day. A fall fitness day will encourage students to participate in 30 minutes a day of physical activity.

For small businesses that lack funding to dedicate towards employee wellness, Haluska says there are small, easy changes that can help improve the health of employees, such as implementing a small stretching routine twice a day or ensuring there are healthier snacks in vending machines.

The Appanoose County Wellness Coalition is happy to share creative tips and advice with employers and community members. Haluska notes that coalition members are all volunteers who are invested in the work. “If no one else does it, it won’t get done. No one will make sure wellness and health are a priority in the community,” she says.

Residents interested in health-related tips and events can find more information on the Appanoose County Wellness Coalition Facebook page. The group is always looking for volunteers and meets the first Tuesday of each month at noon at Mercy Medical Center. Those with questions can reach Haluska at (641) 437-4422.

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