PUBLISHED: 4:50 PM on Wednesday, June 6, 2007
SEARHC awards worksite grants
SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program awarded small grants worth nearly $12,000 to seven Sitka organizations so they can implement summer employee wellness programs or policy changes. The grants were presented at the May 16 meeting of the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.

The grants were available to organizations in Sitka and Juneau (no Juneau organizations applied) willing to organize and lead worksite-based employee wellness efforts that addressed one of the following four items - healthy food choices in the workplace, physical activity during the work day, effective tobacco prevention and cessation in the workplace, and air quality in the workplace. Organizations will have to complete their projects by the end of September 2007.

"The grants will give these organizations the means for instituting healthy changes within their workplaces," said Tia Patterson, School and Community Health Coordinator for the Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program.

"In a few years, when Sitka becomes the first community in Alaska to celebrate being officially recognized as a 'Well City,' we'll look back at these seven worksites and say a heartfelt thank you," said SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne, who is helping coordinate the Sitka Employee Wellness Coalition. One of the goals of the Sitka Employee Wellness Coalition is for Sitka to be designated a "Well City" by the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) by the year 2012.

The grants were awarded to:

Sitka Pioneer Home-$2,396, to implement a 12-week incentive-based physical activity program for all employees and to institute a workplace physical activity policy that ensures employees can participate in regular physical fitness during the workday.

Center for Community- $1,600, to implement an air quality improvement project that addresses both scents (perfumes) and toxic cleaning products. This project includes an education component and an air quality workplace policy.

White's Inc.-$1,600, to implement a healthy breakfast program with the assistance of a registered dietitian. The dietitian will teach staff members how to design healthier breakfasts, and White's also will institute a healthy foods policy for all foods served at company functions.

Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV)- $800, to implement a walking program for staff using pedometers and incentives, and to develop a policy that encourages access to regular physical activity during the workday.

University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus- $2,400, to implement a healthy vending policy and healthy snack program for UAS staff. The vending policy will ensure that only healthy snack options are available in UAS vending machines and the snack program will provide educational and taste-testing opportunities for staff members.

Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL)- $800, to implement a Pedal to Health program. SAIL will purchase an adult tricycle which employees will use to ride to community meetings and for work-related errands, and the trike's use will be logged. The Sitka SAIL office also will advocate for a physical activity policy in the regional SAIL employee policies and procedures manual, to ensure that all SAIL employees have access to a safe and healthy workplace.

Sitka Community Hospital-$2,400, to implement a Going Green on OB project to develop a policy and replace all toxic cleaning products with non-toxic, environmentally safe cleaning products in the Obstetrics/Gynecology department. The project also includes teaching environmental services staff about the new products, so they might advocate for the entire hospital to go "green."

The SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program targets three main focus areas - obesity, diabetes and asthma - by working with schools, worksites and other community groups to increase physical activity, encourage healthy eating and reduce tobacco use. The Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program is part of a national Steps to a Healthier US program run by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, contact Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska Grant Manager Grace Brooks at 966-8865.