FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2007
AUSTIN, TX -- On Monday, April 23, the Texas Senate approved a bill by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. that proposes innovative policy to enhance the health outlook of Texans in state government through a comprehensive worksite wellness program.
"Senate Bill 72 is a simple, but feasible program to encourage 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," explained Sen. Lucio. "While the bill's primary goal is to help people achieve and maintain good health and physical fitness, I am also looking at the potential cost-savings. Reports show that healthy people miss fewer days of work and require less health care on average, which saves costs not only for the individual participating, but for the state and taxpayer as well."
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 $39 billion for overweight- and obesity-related problems by 2040. Texas government hires 145,000 full-time employees working throughout the state. The state spends more than $3 billion annually for state employee health insurance. It is estimated that Texas could save $80 million in the first three to five years from the proposed wellness program.
Participants would 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 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."
SB 72, now headed to the House for consideration, would create a 17-member Worksite Wellness Advisory Board, administratively connected to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and 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.
Note: Ms. Kate Volti, policy analyst, handles this legislation for Sen. Lucio, 512-463-0127.