HUDSON — The holiday season is a notorious time for packing on the pounds, but a workplace initiative by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce helped participants undo the damage.
The Chamber of Commerce conducted the “Manage the Damage” winter challenge, with a trio of local companies participating — Coarc, the Columbia County Health Department and Columbia County Real Property Tax Service Agency.
Employees were asked to keep a log of their healthy habits, including exercising daily, drinking water, eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal, eating a meal without refined carbohydrates, reducing electronics usage and setting aside time for mindfulness.
“This is a health and wellness initiative started by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce,” chamber President and CEO Jeffrey Hunt said. “We realized that as a business organization that represents businesses throughout Columbia County that a healthy employee is a more productive employee, and so we instituted several initiatives to try to help employers reduce their premium costs by instituting several workplace and workforce challenges. Our impetus for this is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, which keeps track of health in counties throughout the United States.”
The Manage the Damage challenge put employees to the test.
“We know that during the holidays and Christmas season people tend to eat more, tend to spend more, and so we created a wellness challenge to allow people who want to change their habits from the holiday season and to start the new year on a healthier front,” Hunt said.
In the fall of 2018, the chamber also did a step challenge, which Coarc won. That initiative sought to encourage more walking and exercise among participants.
This year, Columbia County moved up a handful of spots in the statewide rankings.
“Of the 62 counties in the state of New York, before we started this initiative Columbia County was ranked 26th in terms of healthiest counties,” Hunt said. “We are now the 20th healthiest county in the state of New York and our goal is to get into the top 10 in the next two or three years.”
Victoria McGahan accepted the plaque and prizes on behalf of the winning organization, the Columbia County Department of Health.
“When I got people involved in this, they were asking, is it this easy? And yes, you get points for the changes you are already doing and for the healthy habits that you already have,” McGahan said. “That’s why so many people were able to start and complete it. Half the battle is getting people to finish.”
Nine employees started the challenge, and all but two finished it.
The results of the three participating employers was close.
“It was a very close challenge — everybody was highly involved on every one of these teams,” said Erin Nevins, chairwoman of the Move Columbia initiative. “The challenge was so close that it was all within about a 100-point spread from each team.”
Sponsors of the Manage the Damage challenge were Kinderhook Bank, Columbia Memorial Health and EP Nevins Insurance. The next initiative will be a spring challenge beginning April 1.
“We are trying our hardest to make an impact on the community,” Hunt said. “We want to continue keeping the community focused on keeping health as a priority, and as an initiative we think we can make a difference. We started off small, and we are growing every year.”