Tampa says wellness centers for city employees are a success so far listen09/01/11 Janelle Irwin
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Last year, Tampa City Council narrowly gave the go ahead for a program that would give city employees another health care option. Today, current city council members praised the cityâ€™s wellness centers for their initial success. Since the first one opened in February, supporters say the clinics have saved the city and its employees time and money.
Council member Lisa Montelione had the most personal reason to applaud the first reports of success for the wellness centers. Her significant other was recently stung by a wasp, leaving his arm swollen to the shoulder. She said his experience was both inexpensive and convenient.
But the programâ€™s success wasnâ€™t always so certain. Last October, it passed by a close vote of 4-3. Council member Mary Mulhern was one of the dissenting votes. Despite her initial concerns, she now says the wellness centers turned out to be a good thing for the city.
Kimberly Crum is the cityâ€™s director of human resources. She said the savings so far arenâ€™t huge, but compared to estimates of inflation, the centers are a financial success.
Theyâ€™re pretty popular so far too, she said. There have been almost 4,000 visits to the two facilities this year. Many of the patients participated in a survey and the results were just what the city wants to see.
Crum said one of the goals was to focus on key health issues. Doing so, she said, is good for both cost purposes and for the well being of employees and their families.
The most common ailments so far: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Crum said they are also putting emphasis on tobacco cessation. Council member Mike Suarez agreed with other council members who are all pleased with the programs performance in its first year.
Council member Harry Cohen added, the city is doing its part to make Tampa a healthier city too. He said the council recently planted a community garden to promote healthy eating habits and is working on implementing more bike paths to foster athletic lifestyles.