Good things are happening in Milwaukee everyday, but this week something great was stirring – talk about Milwaukee regaining its status and prominence as a healthy city through the Well City USA initiative – and we are setting our sights on 2010!
Well City Milwaukee, a collaboration of the City of Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, is a three-year project focused on workplace wellness that will culminate with Milwaukee becoming a "Well City USA" as designated by the Wellness Councils of America.
If you weren’t at the Well City Milwaukee celebration breakfast and progress report meeting Wednesday, you really missed it. Nearly 250 people gathered in support of this initiative and the positive energy and enthusiasm was palpable.
Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was a little surprised I think, by the growth of the movement in the short time since the initial launch last year. We loved hearing about his personal "waist management" program including a personal record of exercising 144 days in a row – now there is a commitment and a role model.
So what’s it all about and what’s happening? Forty-five Milwaukee area businesses have committed to being champions for workplace wellness by implementing quality wellness programs for their employees.
Slowly, employees get healthier and it spreads to other employees. The business community feels good about it too and shares the positives with other CEOs and it spreads to other companies. Our workplace environments become more supportive of healthy lifestyles and that sustains the good behavior. On a personal level, health feels a lot better and it shows – so family members and friends get on board and before you know it, health is infecting our community instead of chronic disease.
It’s a vision, sure, but Well City Milwaukee has the potential to change the norms in our community and set the bar.
This vision is for the future, but here is the current reality of what Milwaukee employers are reporting right now:
- Tremendous CEO and senior level support
- Empowered wellness teams .
- High participation rates with health risk assessments and health screenings.
- Walking groups, subsidized fitness center memberships, on site exercise facilities.
- Healthier food choices in vending machines, cafeterias and break rooms .
- Reduced smoking due to smoke-free policies and quit resources provided.
Milwaukee is on the right track – we recently were recognized by Men’s Fitness Magazine for being fifth among the top 25 cities for men’s fitness and ranked eighth by Cooking Lite Magazine in the top 20 cities recognized for healthy restaurant choices and farmers markets. Opportunities are here – let’s take advantage!
Well City Milwaukee is bound to be a success because it’s a win/win for everyone involved. First and foremost, it’s about the people in our community. Second, it’s good for employers, for health care, for our wonderful city, and … The clock is ticking on this project, but it’s not too late to be among the leaders who are transforming the lives of our community members. Go to www.wellcitymilwaukee.org for more information or to search for or post a wellness event on the community wellness calendar.
Janet McMahon, associate vice president of Healthy Lifestyles at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, is the executive director of Well City Milwaukee.