Health is important for state's economy
Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:00 AM
Indiana's health commissioner is making the rounds urging Hoosiers to step up their wellness efforts.
Dr. William VanNess' message has a tone of urgency. In the past, similar messages have fallen on deaf ears.
Wellness programs - efforts to improve people's health by encouraging them to take actions such as quitting smoking or starting exercise regimens - have quality of life benefits, VanNess told a Bloomington Herald-Times reporter.
There are also very real economic reasons to push them, he said
"It's important for your health, but it's important for our economic health to have a healthy Indiana," VanNess told reporter Rick Seltzer. "That's why we're trying to bring all this up and shine a light on it, so people will get motivated to make a difference."
VanNess said that employer medical costs fall by $3.27 for every wellness dollar spent. Absenteeism costs fall by $2.37.
He said the state has high obesity and smoking rates.
Statistics show that about 30 percent of Indiana adults are obese, making it the eighth most obese state in the country, according to VanNess. Roughly 25 percent of adults smoke, making the state the sixth worst in the country in that category.
The state has goals of reducing adult smoking, cutting adult obesity, reducing infant mortality and increasing childhood immunizations. Many of those factors are things businesses consider when deciding whether to locate in Indiana, VanNess said.
"Businesses want people who are healthy, show up, work hard, do their job," he said. "And if you've got a very unhealthy population, it's a factor."
Wellness isn't just about the workplace. Communities can take a leadership role.
Madison, for example, has a beautiful walkway along the Ohio River, the Heritage Trail and Clifty Falls State Park - all great places to get exercise. Carrollton is in the process of creating a walkway for citizens. All of our local communities have fine public parks.
Exercise comes in many forms for people of all shapes and sizes.
Ultimately the decision to become fit rests with the individual, but it's easier to get with a program if others are offering their support.