Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Alan Keck launched Healthy Somerset, led by Director Kathy Townsend.
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The group is committed to offering ideas and creating challenges to encourage exercise and healthy habits. Efforts are already underway to make the community more walkable, enhance city parks and provide healthy, locally sourced food options to residents.
Healthy Somerset’s first event, a virtual race called the COVID Crushers Challenge, encouraged residents to walk, run or bike between 1.9 to 19 miles during a 19-day period in summer 2020. More than 190 people registered to participate in the race, posting their progress on the event’s Facebook page and encouraging one another to keep up the good work as they were staying home during the pandemic.
Townsend is also working toward developing a workplace wellness initiative through Healthy Somerset intended to encourage employees to improve their health holistically. The first opportunity was the Shamrock Shuffle 5K, the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce’s annual 5K race. The City of Somerset paid the entry fee for every employee who participated.
“Studies show that workplace wellness programs that offer financial incentives to employees to improve their health are often successful,” Keck said. “While this first challenge was small, it still motivated several of our employees to run or walk 3.1 miles on a Saturday morning and it allowed us to support another local organization along the way. The hope is that as we introduce more of these opportunities, more employees will engage, and we will be able to create long-term positive and holistic changes for our city workforce.”
In addition to improved health, Keck said the goal over time is to generate savings on health care costs and improve the overall well-being and productivity of the workforce.
Townsend is considering ideas for other workplace wellness initiatives that improve employees’ health holistically. They include a community garden, which promotes nutrition and physical activity, and providing yoga classes, which emphasize physical, mental and spiritual health.