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Healthier employees are often more productive, spending more time at work

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WARREN, Ohio - Obesity alone is responsible for increasing annual healthcare costs by $200 billion dollars.

However, employers are turning to worksite wellness programs as a way to help cut those costs.

Worksite wellness programs dwindled in popularity after their initial hit among employers in the 1980s. However, they're making a comeback and this time experts believe they're here to stay.

"A lot of people think worksite wellness programs should be focused on the unhealthy population and it's not. It should be the whole spectrum of the healthy to the unhealthy. Your primary objective is to keep your healthy people healthy," said United Healthcare's Michael Merk, a guest speaker at Trumbull County's Creating Healthy Communities Program.

Merk says the key ingredients needed for a worksite wellness program include a fitness, nutrition and a stress management component.

It is estimated nearly 60 percent of employers have some plan in place.

More than five years ago, InfoCision in Austintown made a commitment to its employees. In addition to offering a physician on site four days a week, the company provides a gym.

"We were seeing, before we implemented a lot of these changes, double digit increases in healthcare premiums and the company certainly wanted to minimize those costs and one of the ways in which to do so was to make sure we are providing easy access to our employees to maintain a healthy body," said InfoCision's Lisa Hird.

Other speakers at the conference stressed the importance of extending wellness beyond the four walls of a company. They suggest employers utilize free resources within the community like pairing with health organization which offer free programs.

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