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Are county workers healthy?

With a little hesitation, all five county commissioners approved a wellness survey that will be distributed to all Douglas County employees.

Questions about tobacco use, exercise and nutrition can be found in the online survey, which employees can fill out anonymously. The survey will not be mandatory.

Sandy Tubbs, Public Health director, and Amy Reineke, a public health educator, spoke to the Douglas County commissioners at Tuesday's regular board meeting about the survey.

Reineke explained that the survey isn't about adding policies; it's about finding out where county employees stand on these types of issues.

She also noted that the survey is part of the groundbreaking program called the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

SHIP is an integral part of Minnesota's health care reform initiative passed by the Minnesota State Legislature. Its goal is to help Minnesotans live longer, better, healthier lives by preventing the chronic disease risk factors of physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use and exposure.

Commissioner Paul Anderson asked, "Now, there's no cost involved, right?"

He was told no, there would be no cost to the county to do the survey. Anderson then said, "And it's totally optional, right?"

Tubbs assured him it was optional.

Tubbs told the commissioners that the survey would be used to gauge perspective.

"It's a starting point. Where are employees at? What are they thinking? It's not going to be a majority rules or anything," Tubbs said.

Reineke reassured them that the public health department is just interested in hearing from county employees and that the survey isn't about policies.

Commissioner Jerry Johnson told Tubbs and Reineke that learning about smoking and cell phone use is, "very nice," but why not add questions about how employees feel about random drug testing.

"Let's go after something that has more impact," he said.

Tubbs told Johnson, "Our interest is in SHIP. We are not out to tackle every issue. Right now, we are just looking at issues that are part of SHIP."

In addition, Reineke and Tubbs explained that the questions on the survey are meant to be answered for when employees are working. The questions are not about what employees do on their own time.

Here is a look at some of the questions on the survey:

•Do you use any form of tobacco (cigarettes, pipe, chew, etc.) during the workday?

•Are you supportive of a Douglas County policy prohibiting tobacco use on the grounds of all Douglas County buildings, including parking lots?

•In the past year, have you walked, biked or used another active form of non-motorized transportation to go to work?

•Have you attended county sponsored meetings or gatherings - internal or external - where there were no healthy food options available?

•On a typical day, how often do you use a cell phone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving?

•What percentages of these calls are during county business time while driving?

•Would you be in support of a comprehensive distracted driving policy that states when on county business time, employees may not use cell phones (including hands-free) or any other mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle (including your own personal and county vehicle)? This would include, but not be limited to, answering or making phone calls, engaging in phone conversations, reading or responding to e-mails and text messages, adjusting a GPS and accessing the Internet.

Commissioner Bev Bales made a motion to approve the authorization to distribute the employee wellness online survey and Commissioner Norm Salto seconded the motion.

All five commissioners voted in favor of the survey. Tubbs and Reineke thanked them for their time.