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Health Secretary Recognizes Wellness Initiatives in Luzerne County During National Public Health Week
Date:4/8/2009

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Health Everette James visited Luzerne County today to applaud Wesley Village Retirement Community in Pittston and other local businesses for working to implement worksite wellness programs as part of the Department of Health's Steps to a Healthier PA program.

"In Pennsylvania, chronic diseases -- many of which can be prevented -- account for nearly 80 percent of all health care expenditures," said Secretary James. "Organized wellness programs that focus on prevention improve productivity and drive down health care costs. We applaud the employers in Luzerne County who are making employee health a priority by implementing worksite wellness programs."

Wesley Village used the Secretary's visit to announce plans for a wellness program for employees. The program will likely include a walking club, on-site screenings, an on-site farmers market, and healthier food choices in the cafeteria.

Secretary James also took part in a discussion on the structure and benefits of employer-based wellness programs with representatives from Wesley Village, Martz Trailways, Kings College and the MotorWorld Group, which have also implemented employee wellness programs.

So far, 28 Luzerne county businesses have participated in the worksite wellness initiative and implemented more than 100 changes in workplaces as part of the Steps to a Healthier PA program.

Steps to a Healthier PA works with communities in Tioga, Fayette, and Luzerne counties to encourage residents to reduce health risks associated with diabetes, asthma, obesity and other chronic diseases. Through the program, the Department of Health provides funding, training, and technical assistance to encourage communities to implement new programs to improve the health of its citizens. It is funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, interventions are integrated across the public and private sectors -- including community settings, schools, work sites, and health care settings.

Secretary James also visited Heights Terrace Elementary School in Hazleton to recognize efforts by the Hazleton YMCA/YWCA to combat childhood obesity through the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) after school program. CATCH works with children, parents, teachers, and school staff to teach skills and behaviors associated with maintaining healthy lifestyles. CATCH coordinates four component areas, including classroom curricula, food service modifications, physical education changes, and family enforcement, targeting both children's behaviors and the school's environment.

National Public Health Week runs April 6-12. For more information on National Public Health Week in Pennsylvania, visit www.nphw.org.

For more information about the Department of Health or Steps to a Healthier PA, visit www.health.state.pa.us.

    CONTACT: Stacy Kriedeman
    (717) 787-1783


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health
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