State-Led Worksite Wellness: A Look at Arkansas' Efforts to Promote Healthy Employees

October 17, 2014|2:34 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Many state health departments across the nation are launching worksite wellness programs to promote healthy living, regular exercise, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyle choices among employees. In today's competitive market, employers are implementing worksite wellness programs to attract employees, and are offering a full menu of benefits related to tobacco control, nutrition, physical activity, weight management, transportation, stress management, and health screenings, in addition to building workplaces that are breastfeeding-friendly for mothers. Employers and employees reap many benefits from such programs, including a healthier workforce, increased morale, work productivity, and healthcare cost savings.

In 2007, through the support of many external partners, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) launched the Arkansas Healthy Employee Lifestyle Program (AHELP) to create a worksite culture that supports healthy lifestyle choices for its state employees. The comprehensive program has five goals, with the intent to increase the number of employees who are at a healthy weight, choose healthy food options, participate in regular physical activity, obtain annual age-appropriate doctor-recommended screenings, and reduce or quit their use of tobacco products. The AHELP program has grown substantially from 7,000 employees in 2007 to 23,000 employees in 2014.

What has made AHELP so successful?

  • Partnerships - The program was originally built as a pilot program with support from CDC, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration's Employee Benefits Division, the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System Service Center, Corphealth Inc., the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, among others.
  • Formation of a wellness committee - The establishment of a wellness committee was vital for the AHELP program, as it allowed for employee involvement and encouraged buy-in from management and potential program participants.
  • Communication - The state is in constant communication about the program with employees through an online message board, email newsletters, social media, and online resources.
  • Web-based tracking system - The AHELP system allows participants to track their healthy behaviors, including fruit and vegetable intake, and educates participants on healthy eating through nutrition-focused webinars.
  • Incentives - State employees who participate in the web-tracking behavior program can earn up to three days of paid leave, in addition to receiving other incentives like gift certificates, t-shirts, and gym memberships.

Learn more about how the Arkansas Department of Health formed AHELP in this story from ASTHO's "Have You Shared" story collection. View ASTHO's complete collection of stories at