Parsippany Employees Focus on Health
Officials say wellness program for township staffers will mean better service for residents.
As mayor of Parsippany Troy-Hills, James Barberio has plenty of reasons why he doesn’t have time to focus on his health. However, after a visit with his doctor left him with concerns, Hizzoner came to the conclusion that it was time to make some serious lifestyle changes.
Mayor Barberio, along with Business Administrator Jasmine Lim and 26 percent of the township's employees, participates in a new municipal wellness program. The effort strives to encourage workers to improve their overall health through weight loss, exercise, stress management and smoking cessation.
According to Lim, the initial driving force behind the program was to "bring down the costs of health care premiums for employees."
Because the township is self-insured for worker’s compensation, both Lim and Mayor Barberio hope to reduce the number of work-related accidents and illnesses for those who work for the township.
The mayor notes that the program has a benefit for all Parsippany residents.
"We'll have healthier, happier employees who are more productive and show improved job performance,” he told Patch.
To encourage its employees to engage in healthy lifestyle changes, township enlisted the help of Debra Patteta from Wellness Coaches USA. The company describes itself as “the leading national provider of on-site, face-to-face wellness coaching and related services delivered directly to employees in the workplace.”
To assist employees with their goals, Patteta spends three days a week in the municipality and strives to visit each township building. She then meets with staffers and works with them to achieve health-related goals tailored to each person’s individual needs.
Barberio, for example, works with Patteta on a healthy eating plan and exercise regimen. The mayor meets with the wellness coach each week, when she monitors his blood pressure and fat ratio and dispenses guidance on issues such as portion control and making good decisions when eating out.
"Meeting with the wellness coach is a way to recharge my battery," he said. "When I feel like I am losing motivation to stick to my plan, these weekly meetings help me to re-focus and stay on track."
Both Lim and Barberio admit that some workers met the program with skepticism when it was first introduced. Since its start last March, however, three employees have successfully quit smoking, 52 (including the mayor) have reduced their blood pressure, and 41 workers have lost a total of 233 pounds.
Business Administrator Lim said she is proud of the positive direction the program has taken. While the initial motivation for such a program was to reduce insurance costs, Lim said the ongoing hope is for a “healthier workforce.” She admitted that the current participation rate is somewhat low, but in time, she said the hope is that within two years, the township reaches the national participation rate of 92 percent.
The mayor is proud of his accomplishment. He said he has lost (and continues to lose) weight at a healthy, steady rate. In addition, he said he no longer needs his blood pressure medication.
"I am doing the best thing for myself, my family and the township I work for,” he said.