MEATLESS MONDAYS?

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Are transit workers big smokers? Are electricians overweight? The city is about to find out. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is poised to launch a survey of “worksite wellness” at 10 large businesses and institutions.

The department received a grant last fall from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for $386,000 per year over three years to implement strategies for improving employee health. It plans to partner with Cornell University and Medstat, a private company, to conduct surveys beginning in May of approximately 32,000 blue-and white-collar workers at six hospitals, Columbia and Pace universities, Con Edison and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Researchers will collect data about a worksite’s demographics, physical and mental health, and productivity related to health.

The survey “gives them a sense of the internal organisms of their company,” said Daria Louisi, director of Wellness at Work, a project funded through by New York State Department of Health.

Once researchers gather the data from web sites and questionnaires, the department will work with company site coordinators to implement “interventions.” The interventions are run every three months and target different health issues, depending on the information gleaned.

A company may choose to adopt “Meatless Mondays,” for example, or create a smoking cessation programs. Company employees participate in the health initiatives voluntarily and are encouraged to create goals, such as weight loss or lowering their blood pressure.

For every dollar spent on preventive health, three dollars are saved on health care costs, absenteeism and productivity, according to Dr. Ron Goetzel of Cornell’s Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, who is directing the data collection and implementation.

“The extra added attention will result in better eating habits, nutrition and exercise,” said Dr. Frank Goldsmith, director of occupational health for the Transit Workers Union Local 100. “We do have exercise rooms that aren’t used as much as they should be.”