History of “Wellness Works”

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Active Living & Healthy Eating, News | 0 comments

In 1996 Community Partners began to address 15 health priority areas and started identifying leaders in the community to work on task forces in these specific health priority areas. One task force that resulted from this was the Kearney well workplace group.

The Kearney well workplace task force was created to reduce the incidence of injuries and diseases by addressing wellness at the work site. The group focused its efforts on receiving a Well City Award, given by The Wellness Council of America. Community Partners believed that focusing on this challenge would help the community achieve its goal of reducing obesity.

The Kearney well workplace task force brought in Dr. Howie Halperin, Wellness Council of the Midlands (WECOM) and Dr. David Honeycutt, Wellness Council or America(WELCOA) during the 1996 Building A Healthier Community Summit. They spoke to employers to create synergy around the idea of well workplaces.

The program started with two employers having enough “wellness qualifications” to receive the Well Workplace award. The well workplace task force brought in education to businesses to give them education and tools to implement health in the workplaces. By 1998, 23 businesses had completed the Well Workplace University to learn how to build worksite wellness programs at their business.

Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce staff accepting worksite Wellness Award 2001. Left to Right: Sonja Harms, Kelli Krier, Cindy Richter and Roger Jasnoch .

Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce staff accepting worksite Wellness Award 2001. Left to Right: Sonja Harms, Kelli Krier, Cindy Richter and Roger Jasnoch .

“When we started Well Workplace University we were 26 employees representing a wide range of businesses with very little knowledge about worksite wellness. By going through the University process together, we formed a strong bond providing synergy and energy between the Kearney workforce with a common goal. We worked together, shared programs, attended each other’s events and involved the community,” said Dr. Kate Heelan, Professor/Director of Physical activity and Wellness Lab at University of Nebraska Kearney.

On January 29, 2001 Kearney won the “Well City USA” Bronze award, presented by WECOM and WELCOA reaching over 20% of employed population in worksite wellness programing. Over 20 businesses were members of WELCOM and achieved Gold, Silver or Bronze status to earn this award. Kearney was the fifth Well City in the USA and the only rural community as well as the only volunteer based Well City.

“This goes to show the strength of our partners in Buffalo County. When people see a need and set a goal then volunteers are ready to help educate the community and reach the goal,” said Carol Schwarz, member of Be Well and previous board member of Wellness Works.

In 2002 the members who were part of the Workplace Wellness task force created “Wellness Works” forming its own board of directors. This board was staffed by volunteers to keep the community engaged in worksite wellness.

In 2005, Mark Fenton, national public health, planning, and transportation consultant, spoke to celebrate the 10-year milestone of worksite wellness. Twenty businesses continued to earn WELCOM Awards in the community.

In 2006, to keep energy going, Wellness Works enters statewide Physically Active Communities Excel competition with other Nebraska communities. Buffalo County won by logging 1,564,726,988 steps and earned $10,000 in award funds to be granted out to the community to improve wellness.To help community members kick of the walking challenge, Wellness Works adopted Walk Out On Your Job from the Kearney Clinic. They had 1,553 participants for their first year.

Kate Heelan, Scott Hayden, and Katie George take a little break while setting up for Walk Out On Your Job in 2008.

Kate Heelan, Scott Hayden, and Katie George take a little break while setting up for Walk Out On Your Job in 2008.

In 2008 the Wellness Works board dissolved and the members joined with Activate Buffalo County to increase wellness efforts in Buffalo County.

“When Activate Buffalo County and Wellness Works merged it was just strengthening what members were already doing. This merger created one very strong coalition with resources being spent in better ways for the community,”

said Bryce Abbey, Activate Buffalo County Member.

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