By Rick Johnson, CEO, Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness

It’s no secret Tennessee is one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family. Our state’s appeal is evident as we look around at the many businesses locating and growing here. But, as we look to maintain our success, there is a critical issue that we as a state must address – our health.

Tennessee is consistently ranked among the least healthy states in the country. Our rates of chronic, behavior-related diseases such as hypertension and stroke, diabetes, heart disease, COPD and several types of cancer are among the highest in the nation. The result: a health crisis that is estimated to cost us more than $6 billion every year in Tennessee and that leads to lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and a diminished quality of life.

As potential employers consider locating operations in our state, a ready workforce is usually at the top of their lists. They’re looking for a workforce that is not only educated and well-trained but one that is also healthy enough to do the job. The simple truth is unhealthy employees cost companies more and could keep them from considering Tennessee.

As a business leader and economic development professional, you are in a powerful position to help.

Workplace wellness programs can make a significant impact on individuals and their families. Data from several rigorous studies show that workplace wellness initiatives increase employee productivity and satisfaction, reduce sick leave and turnover, and lower healthcare costs over time. One study found employers save an average of $6 for every $1 spent on wellness.

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, a non-profit corporation established by Gov. Bill Haslam, has created Small Starts @ Work, a free, easy-to-use online wellness toolkit that provides simple, free or low cost ways to help employers create healthier workplaces. The program is available at Small Starts @ Work.

I encourage each of you to explore Small Starts @ Work and help us spread the word about this valuable resource for Tennessee employers. I also ask you to consider starting a workplace wellness program in your own organization. If you already have a wellness program, take a look at Small Starts and see if there are ways to refresh and strengthen your current program.

Working together I know we can improve the health of our great state and keep it among the best places in the country to live and work.

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