Penn Manor Wellness Program earns awards

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Penn Manor School District has been named a Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association in recognition of its wellness programs and health screenings.

The honor is the second of its kind for the district, which also received a Well Workplace Gold Award from the Lighten Up Lancaster Coalition in May. Penn Manor is the only school district in Lancaster County to earn either award.

The Fit-Friendly award is bestowed on companies that promote such wellness activities as exercise, weight-loss and healthy nutrition programs.

The Well Workplace Award is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Worksite Health Scorecard, which assesses wellness efforts in 12 areas, including physical activity, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, tobacco control and reducing high blood pressure.

For the past two years, Penn Manor has provided free health screenings to its employees on Opening Day and has offered a variety of activities to staff, including classes in water aerobics, cross-training, yoga, healthy cooking and weight training.

The district also adopted the Make One Change program, which encourages employees to adopt healthier habits and routines, such as taking walks, reducing their fat and calorie intake or spending more time with family, to improve their mental and/or physical health. Each school has a wellness representative to work with employees to help them achieve their goals, and participants can earn grocery store gift cards for participating.

This year, the district added the “Rally by Roadhouse” program, in which employees voluntarily write positive “rallying kudos” about their co-workers to be shared at faculty meetings. Participants are then entered into a drawing for Texas Roadhouse gift certificate.

As a result of these efforts, employees have lost hundreds of pounds, increased their stamina and focus, and reduced their reliance on medications, said Dawn Janssen, a physical education teacher and the district’s wellness program coordinator.

Janssen said the free health screenings have prompted some employees to receive treatment for medical concerns they otherwise were not aware of. “Thanks to testing, our employees are receiving the valuable health data they need to become success stories,” she said.

Catching health problems early on can help reduce health-care costs for all employees, according to Penn Manor business manager Chris Johnston. But superintendent Mike Leichliter said the program serves a bigger purpose.

“This isn’t about money,” he said. “It’s about saving lives.”