News release: State of Minnesota and businesses join forces to promote worksite wellness

News Release
February 7, 2014

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State of Minnesota and businesses join forces to promote worksite wellness

Governor Mark Dayton proclaims 2014 as "the Year of Worksite Wellness"

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), lawmakers, and business leaders came together Friday to promote worksite wellness in an effort to improve health and productivity while also decreasing health care costs and absenteeism.

As part of the event at the State Capitol Rotunda, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed 2014 as "the Year of Worksite Wellness." Minnesota's rising obesity rates and escalating health care costs have highlighted the importance of healthy workplaces. Minnesota spends nearly $6 billion annually in excess health care due to obesity and tobacco use, and nationally employers spend $93 billion per year in health insurance claims and $1.3 trillion in lost productivity and absenteeism.

"Workplace wellness is an important strategy for improving health in Minnesota," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "We look forward to helping more businesses create healthy worksites, which are good for employees, communities, and the bottom line."

At the event held by MDH and The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, businesses learned about opportunities to support worksite wellness in their workplaces. Scott Peterson, Schwan Food Company executive vice president is serving as chair of the Year of Worksite Wellness. "Increasing awareness and adoption of worksite wellness programs can boost employee health, help employers tame health care costs and increase American competitiveness," Peterson said. "Schwan is just one example of many employers across Minnesota who are leading the way, and I am excited to be part of spreading the word about this vital initiative."

Also supporting the initiative are members of Minnesota's Legislative Wellness Caucus, including State Sen. Sandy Pappas, State Sen. Dave Senjem, State Rep. Leon Lillie, State Rep. Matt Dean, and State Rep. Erin Murphy.

The event also included the announcement of the "CEO Pledge." The CEO pledge, an effort supported by Anytime Fitness, asks businesses to incorporate a combination of strategies to promote a culture of physical activity in the workplace. "I am proud to lead the effort to engage CEOs in Minnesota to become active in creating healthy worksites for their employees," says Chuck Runyon CEO of Anytime Fitness. "Healthier workers-and healthier bosses-will lead to improved company morale, lower health care costs and increased productivity."

Workplace wellness is a growing movement. According to a 2012 survey, 87 percent of Minnesota workplaces are interested in improving wellness and 23 percent of workplaces currently offering worksite wellness efforts. Businesses see wellness programs as ways to help employees and improve productivity. Poor employee health is correlated with an over 50 percent decrease in overall productivity, costing companies nationally an estimated $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee per year.

Workplace wellness efforts are supported by many Minnesota businesses. A few of the organizations that are already supporting the Year of Worksite Wellness include The Schwan Food Company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Anytime Fitness, Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Connolly Kuhl Group, District One Hospital – Faribault, Ecumen Detroit Lakes, Hennepin County Health Works, I&S Group, LakeWood Health Center, LifeTime Fitness, Minnesota Life College, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, StayWell Health Management, Taher Inc., and TEAM Industries Inc.

MDH is involved in worksite wellness in several areas, including through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). SHIP works to improve health by encouraging healthier eating, more physical activity and avoiding commercial tobacco use and exposure. SHIP works with local public health agencies to make healthy choices more available to more people. Throughout the state, local SHIP staff are available to help businesses with their own wellness programs. More information about SHIP can be found at, and worksite efforts at


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications