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County Workers Win With Wellness Program

February 21, 2013

Bonnie Jo Hanson/Times-Record Ellen Bjelland, Barnes County Extension Agent, is a coordinator for the Barnes County employee wellness program.

The Barnes County Office of the North Dakota State University Extension Service offers more than agricultural programs; it also offers a variety of programs for the community along with a wellness program for Barnes County employees.

Ellen Bjelland, Barnes County Extension Agent, in conjunction with City County Health, is coordinating a program to help county employees be healthier and save the county money.

Worksite Recess, a new part of the wellness program, includes a 15-minute wellness break each day. Employees are encouraged to do 15 minutes of exercise during the break, be it in the courthouse basement where exercise equipment will be, to do some weightlifting or take a walk. Bjelland has even measured the distance around a block and determined that three times around is a mile.

“The wellness break provides wellness opportunities for county employees,” said Bjelland who coordinates the program with Julie Hoar of the City-County Health District.

Other activities in the county wellness program include health challenges and free cholesterol checks for county employees.

According to Bjelland, the county departments most active in the wellness program are Barnes County Social Services and City-County Health Department.

While there has been no formal measurement of whether the wellness program has made county employees more fit or more productive, Bjelland believes that it has.

“I think we would see that if we were able to measure it,” she said. “I know by observation.”

While participants may be getting healthier, the program does benefit the health of the Barnes County budget.

Working with North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the county can earn a 1 percent discount on its retirement plan premiums.

In addition, participants can earn points redeemable for up to $250 for working out, whether in a health club or on their own.

Other projects included in the county wellness program include possibly installing a vending machine with healthy food in the Barnes County Courthouse and Barnes County On The Move, a program to encourage the entire community to get up and move.

Besides the county wellness program, Barnes County Extension also provides education and resources for the community. The Parenting Resource Center, run by Amy Tichy, offers parenting information and classes. Family and Consumer Science helps families understand family economics and finances.

Extension also offers a nutrition program targeted at families with limited resources, oversees the Barnes County 4H program, and is involved with the community garden as well as agricultural programs for farmers and ranchers.

For more information about Barnes County Extension services, call (701) 845-8528.

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