Hoping to curb rising health insurance costs, city employees are organizing a fitness program to pump up their fellow workers and cut down on health insurance claims.
City workers have banded together to form CHAMP, the City Health Activities Management Program. Organizers envision clusters of employees jogging over the lunch hour or speeding by on bicycles.
The city also will provide fitness checks, such as blood pressure and cholestrol level tests. CHAMP organizers also have arranged for discounts on city fitness classes and plan to do the same at local health clubs.
Organizers hope the program will create more robust workers and reduce claims on the city's health insurance plan.
"This arose partly out of the rising health care costs on the part of the city," said Price Banks, director of city-county planning and a member of the CHAMP committee.
"I think the thought behind it was, an ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure," he said.
HEALTHIER city workers also may result in leaner local taxes, but Lawrence residents are sure to see an improvement in city services, said Karen DeGasperi, a city personnel specialist and coordinator of CHAMP.
"I don't think anyone expects a significant drop in health care costs as soon as next year, but I definitely think that if you have city workers who are fit and well, it will increase the level of service you get," she said.
The program will be funded through an already existing city health care fund.
A nine-member CHAMP committee was formed in April representing each city department. Members still are planning activities for the program, but a few ideas have floated to the surface.
For example, the committee has arranged for a 30 percent discount for workers in city parks and recreation department fitness programs.
"We're not talking basket weaving," Banks said. "This is for more physical fitness-oriented activities, such as jazz dancing, or what have you."
DEPENDING ON the success of the program, the committee also may extend the discounts next year to family members of city employees, some of whom also are covered in the city health plan, DeGasperi said.
The committee is in the process of arranging for corporate discounts at three local health clubs: Greystone Athletic Club, Bodyshapes Fitness Club, and Junkyard's Jym and Nautilus Center.
To assess the health of city employees, the committee has worked out an agreement with Lawrence Memorial Hospital's Occupational Health and Wellness Program to conduct voluntary health checks, DeGasperi said.
Hospital employees will conduct a complete appraisal of an employee's fitness level, including blood pressure and cholesterol level tests and an analysis of personal habits that may contribute to poor health.
The assessments should take place in August, DeGasperi said.
The committee also is organizing brown bag lunch programs on fitness issues and clubs for employees interested in walking, jogging or bicycling.