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Mutual of Enumclaw setting the pace for healthcare

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By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald

Virginia Erickson and about 109 of her fellow 400 Mutual of Enumclaw employees tied up their tennies and were out walking on their lunch period April 18 for National Walk At Lunch Day.

Getting out and covering a few city blocks before or after lunch wasn't just part of a one-day jaunt to enjoy a quick bit of fresh air for these Mutual of Enumclaw employees. Most, if not all of them, are part of a bigger move by the company to get healthy.

“Honestly we thought we'd get about 40 people (for the walk),” said Sandy Williams from Mutual of Enumclaw's human resources department. The company gave interested employees an extended lunch period so they could walk 30 minutes. They also issued pedometers to those who were interested so they could log their steps. Participants were also entered in a drawing for $100 gift certificate at Foot Locker athletic shoe store.

“We don't care how slow or how fast they walk,” Williams said. “We're excited about the level of participation.”

The human resources department is overseeing a wellness program that encourages people to take control of their health.

With escalating healthcare costs, Mutual of Enumclaw designated a committee to look into what could be done to help control those costs. As Williams pointed out it's hard to put statistics around it, but there seems to be a correlation between health and healthcare costs.

As an insurance company, a large portion of Mutual of Enumclaw employees spend their days sitting behind a desk and computer screen - and that, Williams said, is not only sedentary, but can create stress.

With the blessing of, and help from, its healthcare provider, Mutual of Enumclaw offered all its employees the option to have a personal health assessment in January.

Of the 520 employees enrolled in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah, about half took advantage of the assessments, Williams said. Anyone who fell into a high-risk category had the option to receive personal coaching.

Mutual of Enumclaw employees can also can trade accumulated sick leave for health-related outlets like gym memberships, membership in recognized weight loss programs or tobacco cessation programs. Williams said about 63 employees are taking advantage of that deal.

Erickson is one of those. She said she's been a Weight Watchers member for the past two years, but this year, she was able to trade sick leave for a portion of her membership dues.

“I started with the health program the first of the year,” said Erickson, who usually walks on weekends with her husband. “It's been nice.”

She logged 5,529 steps during her morning at Mutual of Enumclaw. She actually got a head start on other employees. She figures she logged about 2,000 during 40-minutes at lunch time and the remaining steps during her mail run around the building's four floors.

The emphasis will continue, Williams said, in May when Mutual of Enumclaw will host a health fair for National Employee Wellness Day.

“I think we really want people to know their health outside work is important too,” she said.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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