Initiative among actions recommended by Maryland Health Quality & Cost Council
BALTIMORE, Md. (May 19, 2010) – At a press conference today at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers, prominent members of the Baltimore business community and the Greater Baltimore Committee officially launched the first phase of the ‘Healthiest Maryland’ initiative. The initiative is one of the key action items recommended by the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council to Governor Martin O’Malley and will promote healthy lifestyle practices in the workplace. In coming months, the Council will expand the initiative to include programs for Maryland’s schools and communities. Immediately prior to the press conference, Brown led business leaders on a ‘health walk’ from the Center Club to the Inner Harbor, promoting one of several activities businesses can encourage to improve employees’ health.
“Four years ago, we set a simple but ambitious goal to improve public health and expand access to care. Because of Governor O’Malley’s leadership, we have moved forward and extended coverage to more than 165,000 of our neighbors who didn’t have insurance four years ago. And because of the progress we’ve made together, we are better positioned than any other state to implement national health reform,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Still, our work is not done. There are important, every day efforts we can make to improve health care in Maryland and make our state the healthiest state in America. Healthiest Maryland is one of those steps and I am confident that through these new partnerships, Maryland will emerge as one of the nation’s leaders in wellness and preventative care.”
This morning, leadership from over 15 Maryland businesses signed a letter of intent to participate in the Healthiest Maryland initiative. By signing the letter of intent, these employers – including University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), PNC Bank, Johns Hopkins University and Perdue Farms, as well as the State of Maryland – publically declared their commitment to implement policies and practices that promote prevention and wellness. Participating employers commit to making the health of their employees a top priority by increasing access to preventative services, expanding healthy food and beverage choices and promoting other workplace wellness programs.
“Healthiest Maryland is a win-win-win for everyone concerned,” said John M. Colmers, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Vice-Chair of the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council. “Healthy employees are more productive, employers will boost their bottom lines and Maryland families will enjoy a healthier, happier and more active bread-winner for what in many cases may be a much longer life span.”
Studies show that for every dollar an employer invests in the health of its employees, a return of $3 to $6 can be expected. These savings are the result of reduced health care costs, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. Specifically, worksite health promotion programs like Healthiest Maryland have cut sick leave absenteeism by 27 percent and lowered costs associated with worker’s compensation and disability management claims by 32 percent.
“As the region’s largest health insurer, CareFirst understands the importance of employee wellness programs that support positive lifestyle changes,” said Chet Burrell, President and Chief Executive Officer of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield. “We live what we preach by providing CareFirst employees with a wide range of wellness activities. We look forward to participating in the Healthiest Maryland Campaign and working with the State of Maryland, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Greater Baltimore Committee in encouraging businesses to develop programs that promote wellness and encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors.”
Healthiest Maryland helps business leaders to reach their business goals through a self-assessment of strengths and areas for improvement in promoting employee health. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, under the guidance of the Health Quality and Cost Council, will provide technical assistance through online resources and help connect participating employers with accredited wellness programs, professional organizations and voluntary health associations.
“The Healthiest Maryland Businesses project is important not only for promoting wellness among Maryland’s more than 3 million workers, but it also will result in a robust and healthy workforce, positively impacting our economy and healthcare costs,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, Acting President, University of Maryland, Baltimore and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Lt. Governor Brown, in his capacity as the Chair of the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council, will encourage all Maryland companies to participate in the initiative and will hold a series of events around the state to educate business owners about the initiative’s benefits. Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s health care portfolio that has made significant reforms to the state’s health care system and expanded access to health coverage to 165,000 Marylanders who were uninsured four years ago.
In addition to chairing the Health Quality and Cost Council, Brown co-chairs the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown led efforts to pass significant health care legislation that fights fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicaid system and creates a “Medical Home” program that provides incentives to primary care practices to promote preventative and coordinated care. A veteran of the Iraq War and a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Brown also championed a legislative package in 2008 and 2009 to improve mental and behavioral health services for Maryland’s veterans.