2013-11-19 / Commentary

Healthy Maine Street benefits Brunswick business

GUEST COLUMN
BY REBECCA DREWETTE-CARD
AND DEBORA KING

Caroline Kurrus wanted to do something positive with the employees at Cool as a Moose and Artforms to encourage healthier lifestyles. But as a small business, the companies did not have the resources to invest in the kind of workplace wellness programs usually reserved for larger businesses.

So when she heard about the grant the Brunswick Downtown Association received to assist small businesses in downtown Brunswick implement wellness activities, she knew she needed to be involved.

The Healthy Maine Streets program is a collaboration between the Maine Development Foundation’s Maine Downtown Center and Medical Care Development Public Health. The $1.6 million federal grant they received will allow businesses in 19 communities develop worksite wellness plans, and Brunswick is one of the communities participating in the program.

Locally, the program is administered by the BDA, an organization that works with businesses and citizens to build a better downtown. Access Health is a key partner, providing resources and expertise. Access Health is a local Healthy Maine Partnership, coordinated by Mid Coast Hospital, dedicated to creating healthy choices in Mid-coast Maine.

Twelve businesses are participating in the Brunswick Healthy Maine Streets program: ABSolutely Fitness, Artforms, Brunswick Downtown Association, Cool as a Moose, Curtis Memorial Library, Senter Place, the Great Impasta, Greater Brunswick Physical Therapy, Jai Yoga, Morning Glory Natural Foods, Morton Real Estate, and Wellness and Chiropractic Care.

The businesses have all developed workplans to support the physical activity, healthful eating, and tobacco behaviors of their employees.

For example, Curtis Memorial Library is looking into extending its tobacco use policy to smokeless tobacco. Senter Place is creating a walking club for its employees. Wellness and Chiropractic Care is starting monthly healthy potluck lunches, where their employees prepare a healthful item and bring the recipe to share with co-workers. Other businesses are doing similar activities, and some are adding efforts to address other health issues including cancer and substance abuse.

This grant provides a real opportunity for small businesses to make a positive impact on the quality of their employees’ lives.

But the work of these businesses doesn’t stop at the door of their worksites. All participating businesses, plus additional community partners, are collaborating on initiatives that will support downtown employees and community members to make healthy choices.

One exciting program is Movement on the Mall, an opportunity to try new physical activities with co-workers and friends. Local fitness professionals will be invited to volunteer their time to lead a variety of activities once a month. Movement on the Mall will start in the spring.

Access Health is providing training and distributing materials focused on quitting tobacco and reducing exposure to secondand third-hand smoke. The organization is a key member of the wellness committee, bringing public health expertise and resources to the table.

These small businesses are hoping their efforts will ultimately benefit their bottom lines. Worksite wellness programs have been shown to reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, and they can lower health insurance costs. For every dollar spent on worksite wellness programs, employers can save up to $6. Workplace wellness programs can reduce sick time, medical costs and workers’ compensation claims by as much as 25 percent.

Employers such as Cool As A Moose and Artforms see their wellness initiatives as a way to invest in employees and improve their bottom line in the long run. But the activities also bring a sense of fun and community to the workplace, which is important to them.

If you are interested in learning more about Brunswick’s Healthy Maine Street efforts, visit the BDA Web site at www.brunswickdowntown.com/h ealthymainestreet.

REBECCA DREWETTE-CARD is a public health consultant and project director for the Brunswick Healthy Maine Street program.

DEBORA KING is executive director of the Brunswick Downtown Association and project manager for the program.

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