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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

City Employees: Still Way Too Fat and Hypertensive

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 11:14 AM


Last year, the city of Portland adopted its first-ever three-year "wellness" strategic plan, hoping to cut health insurance costs by offering city employees more chances to get off their rumps and also sign up for preventive health screenings.

So how's it going? The city's benefits manager, Cathy Bless, came to council this morning to share the first batch of results. They're not so hot—although the council intends to keep spending money on it, and, in fact is poised to spend more to expand testing and exercise classes throughout the city's far-flung job sites.

"Taxpayers pay for the health care of our employees," Commissioner Amanda Fritz reminded for anyone at home watching the meeting.

All the same, city officials aren't reaching enough employees; the city's hired health nag is only a half-time gig. Officials hoped for a 5 percent reduction in body-mass index from last year, they saw only a half-percent drop. Sugar and cholesterol levels aren't bad, but aren't stellar, either. And blood pressure is actually rising.

"I think I'm personally responsible for that," Commissioner Randy Leonard offered.

There was some good news. Some...

Large medical claims have dipped $1.8 million since last year. Although that's hardly indicative of a long-term trend. And boot camps, and Zumba classes, offered within the past few months, have been quite popular. (They're not offered on paid employee time, Fritz made sure to point out).

Just not, apparently, with the city commissioners.

"What's Zumba?" Fritz had to interject to ask.

"It's exercise with a Latin beat," Bless said. "Come to class on Thursday at noon."

Leonard, who confessed he'd given up guzzling Coke to lose weight, was mystified by what a fitness boot camp might entail. "It's not yelling by a drill instructor?"

One of the speakers, the Water Bureau's Carol Stahlke, later showed off some Zumba moves at the official request of Mayor Sam Adams (who said he's taken advantage of the wellness program's blood screening, but declined to share the results.)

"I can't believe I'm doing this," she said.

"You're good," the mayor answered.

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