HOUSTON, Texas - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through its partner Viridian Health Management, has identified DePelchin Children's Center and 12 other employers in Harris County that have voluntarily chosen to participate in the National Healthy Worksite Program (NHWP), a new initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease and building a healthier, more productive U.S. workforce. The initiative primarily focuses on small and mid-sized employers.

CDC's National Healthy Worksite Program is supported through the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund, and is designed to assist employers in building successful workplace wellness programs by implementing science-based disease prevention and wellness strategies to help reduce chronic diseases. All program and implementation support to participating employers will be provided by Viridian over a 12-month period. Viridian was selected as an implementation partner through a competitive process.

"Employers can increase productivity, cut health care costs and reduce the burden of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other health problems in their workforce by making it easier for their employees to be physically active, eat healthy foods, and not smoke," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D. "Our National Healthy Worksite Program is providing valuable tools to help employers create effective workplace wellness programs that will benefit employees and their families, their community, and the nation as a whole."

Harris County is one of eight communities across the country chosen to participate in the NHWP because of their high rates of chronic diseases and health risk behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity. Also important in the selection of Harris County was the availability of community resources to support a sustainable workplace health program for the 13 participants, such as proximity hospitals and existing community health promotion programs.

The Harris County employers selected as program participants are: SSI Chusei, Inc., of Pasadena; the Salem Lutheran Church of Tomball; Thompson & Hanson of Bellaire; Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services of Spring; and Rosen USA, Tellepsen, DePelchin Children's Center, Brookstone LP, DistribAIR Inc., David Weekly Homes, Silver Eagle Distribution, the YMCA of Houston, and The Mission of Yahweh, Inc., all of Houston.

Employers in the eight communities volunteered to participate and were chosen based on interest and industry diversity. A variety of large, medium and small employers are volunteering to participate in this opportunity to improve the health and well-being of their employees. Each employer will receive intensive support and expertise in developing a combination of interventions. Employers can choose which strategies to implement that support physical activity, good nutrition, and tobacco-use cessation.

Examples include voluntarily choosing:

· Nutrition counseling/education, worksite farmer's markets, menu labels on healthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines, and weight counseling

· Tobacco-use cessation counseling (including quit lines and health plans) and tobacco-free campus policy.

· Physical fitness counseling and walking clubs

In addition to these 13 participating employers, resources also are being made available to many more Harris County employers that were are not selected to formally participate in the program. For this larger group of Harris County employers, health promotion experts will provide some training, tools, networking and mentoring opportunities.

At the end of the program, national evaluation will show best practices and models on how to successfully implement workplace health programs in small workplaces more broadly.

"Through this new initiative, employers can help lead efforts in preventing chronic diseases by adopting strategies that encourage employees to improve their health," said Ursula Bauer, PhD, M.P.H., director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

For additional information, please contact Julie Harper Van Dusen, NHWP community director for Harris County, at jharper@viridianhealth.com, and visit the NHWP website at http://www.cdc.gov/NationalHealthyWorksite.