FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2007
AUSTIN, TX -- As part of his continuing effort to improve nutrition and overcome the obesity crisis among Texans, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. is proposing legislation that will enhance the health and wellness outlook of state employees through innovative policy.
Senate Bill 72 encourages employee participation in wellness activities through incentives, such as allowing all state employees to dedicate 30 minutes, three times per work week, to physical activity. They would also be encouraged to take advantage of on-site wellness seminars and allowed eight hours of additional leave time if they fulfilled certain health requirements, including a physical examination and health risk assessment.
"It is my earnest hope that we motivate as many state employees as we can through programs that should produce positive results, like weight loss, stress reduction, and improved mental and physical health," said Sen. Lucio. "The goal is a healthier and happier state workforce."
The bill would create a 17-member Worksite Wellness Advisory Board, administratively connected to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). In addition to the Advisory Board, the bill would establish wellness councils at state agencies to generate employee involvement and identify inner-agency wellness policies. An agency with over 5,000 employees would be required to hire a full-time wellness coordinator.
The Advisory Board must:
- adopt an online health risk assessment that employees can utilize
- create and maintain internet links to health links for employees
- design an outreach campaign to educate state employees
- create a list of healthy food items and encourage cafeterias to serve items recognized by the board as "healthy"
- negotiate gym discounts for state employees
- host an annual conference for agency wellness councils
- review best practices and participation rates.
Overweight and obesity costs for Texas adults that included healthcare expenditures, indirect lost productivity, costs of illness and premature death for 2001 totaled $10.5 billion. It is projected that it will cost this state $26.3 billion for overweight- and obesity-related problems by 2040.
"Certain parts of Texas rank among the highest in the country in rates of diabetes and heart disease caused by poor nutritional habits and inactivity that result in overweight and obesity," said Sen. Lucio. "SB 72 should be a beacon of promise in alleviating these and other life-threatening illnesses among one of the state's largest workforce segments."
Note. Ms. Kate Volti, policy analyst, handles this legislation for Sen. Lucio, 512-463-0127.