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Articles / 2008

Ventura expo gives a chance to check out the available options

Ventura County Star
Thursday, May 22, 2008
By Allison Bruce

Tammy Washington took a spin at the Circle of Life, filling out a self-assessment of her strengths and weaknesses, and then setting a small goal of eating breakfast as a step toward better nutrition.

Meanwhile, Jim White sat in a reclining chair, legs elevated above the level of his heart, eyes covered and ears listening to headphones playing music that complemented rhythmic vibrations at different points in the chair.

It was all part of Wednesday's lunchtime work site wellness event at the Ventura Family YMCA. The aim was to get those who oversee wellness programs at their companies — or might be interested in starting one — to see the options available.

The Rewards of Wellness Expo was presented by Advocates for a Lifestyle of Exercise and Nutrition in Ventura County, called A LEAN VC, and National Corporate Wellness Inc.

A LEAN VC started out as the Obesity Prevention Task Force, but took on its new name to reflect a more positive outlook.

Hallway demonstrations were offered by companies that charge fees for different coaching, training, services or equipment. In a side room, attendees heard from nonprofit organizations that offer free heart disease screening, walking fitness programs and other resources.

Washington, who attended the event because her organization is trying to create a wellness program, committed on the spot to contacting the chief executive of health coaching company Health Actions Synergies when she accomplished her personal goal.

Washington, a human resources officer for the Camarillo Health Care District, liked being able to see what each company has to offer.

"It gives you some one-on-one time to really learn about the organization and see if it's something beneficial for you and your employees," she said.

In the side room, April MacDonald was caught off guard by a man in a banana suit, laughing as she spotted him and then chatting about ordering fruit for a training session.

MacDonald is a regional account manager with Intracorp, which helps injured workers return to work.

Free programs available

"Now you see why I'm here," she said.

She was particularly impressed with the free programs that would work with employees on-site at a business, pointing to the table for HealthAware: Heart.

At that table, Andrea Ricketts, a nurse practitioner with Community Memorial Hospital, spoke with visitors about heart disease screening that includes testing for different risk factors and free blood testing and analysis.

She shook her head when someone asked about the charge for the outreach program.

"It's all free — everything's free," she said.

About 60 people attended parts of the two-hour event. Some gathered brochures, magnets, squeeze stress relievers and pens as they strolled through, while others stopped to chat with people at each table. There were just more than a dozen stations, making it a manageable circuit.

Diana Impeartrice, a benefits specialist with Affinity Group in Ventura, said her company was revamping its wellness program.

"I'm seeing what's out there," she said, adding that she preferred being able to move around to different vendor tables rather than sitting through seminars.

Sharman Busch of the Ventura County Public Health Department is a co-chairwoman of A LEAN VC's work site committee. Busch said she hoped that attendees would return to their companies knowing more about available resources.

"I do believe the interest in wellness is growing," she said. "It really has to."

With an aging population and rising healthcare costs, having a healthy population is going to make a huge difference, she said.

For companies, wellness programs can translate into less absenteeism, better retention, and improved morale and productivity, she said.

Healthier bottom line'

"It makes business sense," Busch said, noting that in the past, work site wellness programs were often seen as fluffy, fun extravagances.

"This is a very important part of having healthy employees and a healthier bottom line," she said

Back at "The Unwinder" chair, White ended his 15 minutes of relaxation.

He praised the $4,495 device while talking with demonstrators for National Corporate Wellness.

"I feel people are moving way too fast, taking on way too much," he said. "This gives you an awareness of your body."

White, who is on the board of the Ventura Family YMCA, said he attended the event to see what was being offered to the community.

Michael Framberger, president of National Corporate Wellness, said that was the main point.

"These are new things most businesses aren't even aware are available," he said, waving down the hallway at the other demonstrations. "We want to make sure the local businesses are aware we can do all of this."