Thirty-six employers received worksite wellness awards Wednesday from the local Pioneering Healthier Communities group. It’s a jump from 23 worksites three years ago.

That represents thousands of people in these businesses exposed to healthier lifestyles, said YMCA CEO Bill Soper.

“It goes to show you don’t have to be a large employer or spend a lot of money to make a difference,” he said.

The La Crosse Area Family YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities Team recognized the businesses for the efforts in providing an environment that supports and promotes healthier lifestyles to employees.

“We need to change the health system in the country,” said Katie Adamson, director of Health Partnerships and Policy for the YMCA of the USA.

Most people want their health care dollars to go toward prevention rather than after-the-fact treatment, she said.

The challenge, however, is obesity. One in three adults and one in six kids are obese. That, and rising numbers of diabetes, cancer and arthritis, quickly tack on more health care costs.

“As worksites, you need to be doing more (in prevention),” she said. “You won’t be able to afford what’s coming if you don’t.”

The community needs to change, too. Healthy options should be everywhere, making it easier to choose them. There should be more farmers markets, safe routes to school and healthier food selections, she said.

“It’s about changing the physical environment where people live,” Adamson said.

There are still challenges for businesses that do promote workplace wellness, said Jamie Klonowski, special events director at the YMCA. The time and effort to plan the initiatives is usually at the top of the list for employers, along with frustrations in participation dropping.

Teaming up with other area initiates and organizations can help with the workload and encourage employees to participate.

The La Crosse community should be proud of its achievements, said Jessica Raddemann, executive director of the Wellness Council of Wisconsin.

Still, there’s room to improve, Adamson said. The community will know it’s successful in its efforts when all employers demand prevention programs be offered as part of the health package. When health care costs start to get under control. And when experts say kids are on track and will live longer lives.


SILVER AWARD WINNERS

Armitage, Bronston Chiropractic, The Wine Guyz, Citizens State Bank, Davy Engineering Co., Wettsteins, Crown Beverage Packaging, Dahl Automotive, L.B. White Co., Taco John’s, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Kwik Trip, La Crosse Area Family YMCA, La Crosse School District, Mathy Construction.

GOLD AWARD WINNERS

Downtown Mainstreet, English Lutheran Church, Great Rivers United Way, La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium, Community Credit Union, State Bank Financial, Altra Federal Credit Union, City of La Crosse, Kaplan Professional, Mathews, Mcloone, Merchants Bank, ORC Industries, Onalaska School District, Western Technical College, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, La Crosse County, Mayo Clinic Health System, Riverside Corporate Wellness/Logistics Health, The Toro Company, Trane.

Local businesses must complete a survey and apply for the awards; visit www.theyphc.com. A tool kit of free resources for worksites to use for health promotion activities also is available on the website.

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