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Event to show area firms how to start wellness programs

January 19, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - What may appear to be a perfectly risk-free job can be deceiving sometimes.

Sitting in a comfy chair while you work at a computer station all day is certainly not like laying steel at the top of a skyscraper, but there are pitfalls, according to David Steurer, director of the Wellness Council of West Virginia.

Long hours at the computer terminal can result in visual strain or even worse - carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury to the wrist than becomes expensive to employers if an operation is necessary, Steurer said.

In many cases, regular exercise or "wellness" programs at the worksite can prevent such physical complications, Steurer said.

Tuesday at City Hospital in Martinsburg, Steurer's organization will hold a conference for businesses in the Tri-State area to help them understand how to start wellness programs.

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The conference, which will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Dining Room 1 of the hospital, is part of an effort by officials to establish a local chapter of the Wellness Council of West Virginia, a Charleston-based nonprofit group that helps businesses set up wellness programs.

Experts already know wellness programs benefit not only employees, but the company.

Regular exercise programs, which can be as simple as a 20-minute walk around town, help reduce absenteeism, injuries, reduce dependence on company health benefits, and increase production and employee morale, said Tracey Ford, community development specialist for the CLEAN-FOCUS Coalition, a drug prevention organization in Charles Town.

"There's a lot of benefits in wellness, and we're trying to get the word out," said Ford, who is helping organize Tuesday's conference.

Wellness programs can be as basic or elaborate as a business wants them to be, said Ford.

In some of the more extensive wellness programs, companies have hired wellness directors to oversee exercise programs, and some have set up nutritional guidelines or seminars on how to avoid over-eating during the holidays, she said.

Other possibilities include smoking cessation or stress management workshops, Steurer said.

Despite all the emphasis in recent years about the benefits of exercise, the concept of wellness programs at the workplace are still in the early stages, Ford said.

Statewide, Steurer said he has assisted about 200 companies with health promotion efforts.

Tuesday's conference is free and open to any business in the Tri-State area, Steurer said.

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