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Cook County, Ill., rolls out new wellness program

Cook County, Ill., rolls out new wellness program

CHICAGO—Cook County, Ill., officials are hoping a new wellness program will lower the cost of providing health care to its 22,000 employees by promoting fitness and healthy living habits.

The county's new program, Spring Into Health, will be administered by its insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and will offer free health education, screenings and social support, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement last week.

Ms. Preckwinkle said the program was framed in part using medical expertise from the American Heart Assn., as well employee engagement advice from as several local labor unions.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield, the AHA, and our friends in labor have been invaluable in helping craft a wellness plan that will engage our workforce,” Ms. Preckwinkle said. “We are hoping to reach employees at every department, at every level, and show them that leading a healthy lifestyle is possible with Cook County as a partner.”

Ms. Preckwinkle said the program would officially kick off this month with a series of health fairs at various county worksites, where employees can participate in weight, body mass index and other biometric screenings, as well as massage and physical therapy sessions, healthy cooking demonstrations and other educational presentations.

After the launch, employees will have the opportunity to undergo health risk assessments online. Those tests, Ms. Preckwinkle said, will be kept confidential by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

As a reward for completing the risk assessment, employees will receive 2,500 “Blue Points,” which are redeemable through Blue Cross Blue shield for digital jump ropes, music downloads and other exercise-related prizes.

Other elements of the Spring Into Health program include a walking initiative with prizes awarded based on mileage and a wellness council convened by Ms. Preckwinkle to periodically evaluate the program's effectiveness and update its components.

With adequate employee participation, county officials said they believe the program will benefit county employees and taxpayers alike.

In a statement, J. Todd Phillips, a Chicago-based vp at Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the program “will pay dividends not only for (county employees) but also for all residents of, and visitors to, Cook County for many years to come.”