The HEAL Program of the Hagerstown YMCA is dedicated to inspiring healthy eating and active lifestyles. It launched a Healthy Business Challenge as part of the overall Healthy Washington County community movement. This initiative was developed by the Healthy Business Committee, which includes partners from Herald-Mail Media, Meritus Health, Washington County Health Department, Chamber of Commerce, Ruff Fitness, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and Hub Labels. Launched in 2017, the Healthy Business Challenge has influenced over 11,000 employees in 39 different companies across the county.

The workplace is a perfect platform for fostering positive behaviors that can improve individual health, as well as collective results for the community. The Challenge is a way to support employers to develop wellness plans, implement activities, empower employees to make informed decisions, and create a conducive environment for healthy changes. Co-workers can also provide a great support network and inspire one another through camaraderie.

There are many motivations for an employer to focus on workplace wellness: reduce health care costs; increase productivity and employee morale; and decrease absenteeism. For many business owners, investing in their employee’s health is more than just a return on investment. They truly care about affecting the rates of chronic diseases experienced by their employees every day. Through the Challenge, HEAL will showcase all of the great wellness efforts that businesses already have in place and use them as examples to help others get started.

Challenge criteria have been developed in three categories: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Overall Wellness. To ensure that this Challenge represented other collaborative efforts, Challenge criteria were also aligned to the Healthiest Maryland Business initiative and health data resulting from the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. Businesses can select criteria they plan to implement from these lists.

The Challenge is annual, so workplaces can build on their offerings each year. All businesses achieving a minimum of 10 points/category will receive a Healthy Business designation. During the Challenge, HEAL will also be presenting awards to those businesses achieving the highest number of points and that go above and beyond in creating a healthier business environment.

If your business is interested in signing up, please register. Registration is open to all businesses (profit and nonprofit) that have employees and an office/facility in Washington County, Maryland.

A special thanks to Herald-Mail Media for helping us set up registration on the Healthy Washington County site and to the Michael G. Callas Charitable Trust for making the 2017 and 2018 years of the Challenge possible!

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