MILLERSBURG — In the interest of keeping county workers healthy, the Holmes County commissioners on Monday, July 31, agreed to partner with the Health Professionals of Holmes County to provide wellness screenings for employees.

iTheir decision comes on the heels of an April discussion with Pomerene Hospital representatives Tara Martin, wellness coordinator, and Nicole Kolacz, chief nursing officer/vice president patient services, and in the wake of transitioning into being self-insured.

"It's all in knowing your numbers as far as health is concerned and getting one-on-one counseling," said county Human Resources Director Misty Burns, who explored various opportunities designed to get the county ahead of the game on claims, realizing prevention can help the county in the long term.

"If you're not accustomed to going to an annual exam, although it's covered by insurance, this is another way to be proactive," she said.

It's a program the commissioners stand behind and one they've been eager to bring to fruition for some time.

At the April meeting, Martin said, research shows every $1 spent on wellness results in a $1.50 to $3 return on the investment.

To that end, the county will pay $1.25 per eligible employee for an online records portal and $20 per participating employee for a full lipid and glucose health screening.

As part of the agreement, participating employees will not only receive diagnostic screenings, but learn how to read their numbers.

"Wellness screening is an educational and informational tool intended to measure health status, identify potential health risk factors and encourage company employees to make good decisions that promote healthy lifestyles, health and wellness," according to the agreement.

It emphasizes lifestyle changes, which are encouraged by health education and wellness — better food choices, weight monitoring, routine blood work and personal counseling that addresses not only physical well-being but financial, spiritual, social, environmental, intellectual, emotional and occupational health, Kolacz said.

And, in a time when prescription drugs continue to rise and national health care costs have increased 20 percent over five years, Kolacz said, tending to chronic diseases — diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer, heart disease — is critical to managing costs and preventing illness.

Within the program, she said, partner employees work to manage and mitigate risks through screenings and planned changes, paths to which are provided through tobacco-cessation programming, stress reduction, nutritional education and physical activity.

Participation in the wellness program is voluntary and employees will receive information on how to enroll in the short term.

Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or cpratt@the-daily-record.com.