Oregon state workers get healthier

Amid wellness program, survey finds fewer are smoking, overweight

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon's state workers are getting healthier, and university employees are the healthiest among them, according to a survey conducted by the Public Employees' Benefits Board.

The survey found a decline in the number of workers who reported smoking or being overweight over the last three years, the Statesman Journal reported.

Oregon has made a strong push over the past year to improve the health of public employees and tamp down on rising health care costs. A new wellness program known as the Health Engagement Model requires smokers to pay a higher deductible while offering free coverage for smoking cessation and weight-loss programs. Gov. John Kitzhaber also banned smoking on all property surrounding state offices, and college campuses have banned it as well.

The report doesn't explicitly link the improved health to the wellness efforts.

The proportion of state workers who reported smoking dropped from 9 percent in 2009 to 4 percent this year.

Fifty-seven percent of all state workers were overweight or obese this year, down six points from three years ago. But there was a wide variance between university workers and employees of other state agencies. Among agency workers, 64 percent were overweight while fewer than half of university employees were.

Those differences appeared in other areas as well.

Seventy-seven percent of university employees said their jobs involved "mostly sitting," while 84 percent of state agency workers did. And women were much more likely than men to have chair-bound jobs.

State agency workers were more likely than university workers to have arthritis, to have missed work for health reasons in the past month, and less likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

University workers were far more likely to report having access to a gym, to stairs at work, to bike racks and to having discounted public transit. Only 32 percent of state agency workers said they had that option, but 84 percent of OUS workers did.

Most workers in both areas said it was "easy to eat healthy" at work, but only 36 percent of state agency worker said it was easy to find healthy options in the cafeteria, while 62 percent of OUS workers said it was.