Nine large employers from the Lowcountry have recently joined Working Well, a program by the S.C. Hospital Association and N.C. Prevention Partners to create healthier communities and workplaces.
Participating organizations are expected to promote nutrition and physical activity and reduce tobacco use among staff, customers and visitors.
Healthier habits at work will be adopted at home, according to Jennifer Wright, Working Well manager with the hospital association.
"We really encourage businesses to see physical activity as a key part of the quality and productivity their employees are giving them every day," she said. "We want them to look at it not as time away from work but ... as a way to get more from their employees while they're at work."
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Working Well was created by the hospital association to improve the health of doctors, nurses and other medical workers across South Carolina. Employers and their staffs set goals and receive support and training during the 18-month program. Organizations that meet certain benchmarks are recognized.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital have participated in Working Well since early 2011.
After receiving funding through the Healthy South Carolina Initiative, the program expanded to non-medical employers about six months ago. All told, 43 organizations across the state are participating.
"We believe that we are making South Carolina healthier one person at a time, and with this new funding, we'll be able to speed up those efforts, reaching more people much faster," said Rozalynn Goodwin, SCHA director of policy research.
Wright said large employers with influence in their communities were chosen for the first round of funding. New employers will be targeted as money is available.
Holly Mlodzinski, health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital, said the hospital offers employees exercise classes during the day, hosts a farmers market and recently held a health fair.
"The idea is to get people as fit and as active as we can to get better outcomes in the workplace," she said. "People are buying in and continuing to stay healthy."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.