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Santa Barbara Hospital Recognized for Its Employee Wellness Program

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital makes the American Heart Association's list of fit-friendly companies.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is one of more than 600 companies nationwide that have been recognized this year by the American Heart Association’s Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program for promoting physical activity and health in the workplace.

The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program is a primary element in the American Heart Association’s groundbreaking national Start! movement, which encourages all Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health to live a longer, stronger life. The program assists and recognizes companies that demonstrate progressive leadership by making the health and wellness of their employees a priority.

Adult Americans spend the majority of their waking hours at work, many in sedentary careers — amplifying the risk for medical problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Obesity alone costs U.S. businesses $12.7 billion in medical expenses and $225.8 billion in health-related productivity losses per year.

Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program participants implement various options to encourage physical activity, nutrition and culture enhancements such as on-site walking routes, healthy food options in cafeterias and vending machines, annual employee health risk assessments and online tracking tools.

“Time constraints and job responsibilities are employees’ biggest obstacles to exercising. That’s why the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program encourages employers to allow employees to walk while at work,” said Philip Delio, M.D., Board President for the American Heart Association Tri-Counties Division, covering Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo. “Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Furthermore, studies suggest that implementing a work-site physical activity program and promoting a culture of physical activity will help companies increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, lower turnover and reduce hard costs.”

Research shows that employers can save $16 for every $1 they spend on health and wellness. A special advertising section in the Oct. 27 issue of Forbes magazine includes a list of the 640 companies across the nation participating in Start!

Companies interested in joining the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program should call the Santa Barbara American Heart Association office at 805.963.8862 or click here to download an application. Applications are due in January for review by a volunteer expert panel. The panel consists of seven physicians, all of whom are American Heart Association volunteers.

Kristine Kelly is communications director for the American Heart Association.

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