Gov. Dave Heineman recently announced that Peru State College is one of 50 Nebraska employers honored for successful workplace wellness programs.

Gov. Dave Heineman recently announced that Peru State College is one of 50 Nebraska employers honored for successful workplace wellness programs.

"These awards recognize employers for their serious commitment to employee well-being," Gov. Heineman said. "Prevention and wellness efforts in the workplace have produced higher productivity, better employee satisfaction and helped control health care costs. Wellness works every time and these programs are helping more Nebraskans lead healthier lives."

The award was created to recognize Nebraska employers that have developed successful models for encouraging wellness at work. Factors considered for the award included the level of support for the program by company leaders, assessment of employee needs, wellness plan design, outcomes and benefits, and policies supporting healthy behaviors. Wellness programs typically provide employees with health education, health screenings and opportunities for exercise.

Dr. Joe Acierno, Nebraska's Chief Medical Officer, said, "Wellness programs empower employees to make good decisions about the health risk factors in their lives. They can help workers take action to avoid chronic illnesses that can adversely impact their health and affect their quality of life. We hope this award program will encourage more businesses to offer employee health and wellness programs."

Nebraska's workplace wellness program offers two categories. The Grower Award division honors businesses and organizations demonstrating significant improvement in employee health behaviors, while the Sower Award division recognizes workplaces with quality wellness programs. Peru State received a Sower Award.

Peru State President Dan Hanson said, "I want to thank Governor Heineman and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Acierno for recognizing Peru State's commitment to healthy living for our employees. Our enthusiasm for educating others about health and wellness doesn't stop on campus. Through a variety of faculty-led and student-led initiatives, members of our campus community are reaching out to southeast Nebraskans in an effort to combat childhood obesity, bolster blood bank donations, feed the hungry – the list goes on. I look forward to continuing to engage our surrounding communities in these and more initiatives."

Peru State is a member of the Employee Health Alliance (EHA). Additionally, the campus established a Wellness Coalition in 2011.

The brainchild of Peru State Associate Professor of Health and Physical Education Dr. Ellie Kunkel, the Wellness Coalition seeks to educate the campus community about ways to live healthy lifestyles. Under Kunkel's leadership as chair, the coalition established an annual Health and Wellness Fair, a collaborative effort between students in the college's health/physical education and sport/exercise science programs and area healthcare professionals. Throughout the semester, students involved in the initiative select an area of health and wellness for which to advocate, conduct research, and develop informational booths that are both educational and interactive. Some of the topics have focused on healthy eating habits, drug abuse, stress and suicide, second-hand smoke, artificial energy and more.

Kunkel said, "The Wellness Coalition, in support of the mission of Peru State College, seeks to foster healthy lifestyles to further contribute to society in a positive manner. Through providing health initiatives and strengthening existing services for optimum wellness, the coalition works to promote student, staff and community engagement in holistic wellness programs. Thanks to the support of President Hanson and his administration, the coalition continues to embark on new endeavors to provide information and opportunities to all of our constituents."

Nebraska businesses can apply for the Governor's Wellness Award online at Awards are presented annually and are good for three years. The award program is a partnership of the Office of the Governor, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and WorkWell, a division of the Nebraska Safety Council.