Hundreds of Ventura County employees will receive bonuses this month for taking part in a health program that encourages them to quit smoking, lose weight or participate in other health-saving activities.
Under the county's Reach Out for Wellness Program, employees earn points for being examined for problems such as high cholesterol and high body fat, said program administrator Susan Heller.
Ninety employees who participated in the program will get a bonus of $150 for earning 75 to 99 points under the program, and another 277 employees will receive a full bonus of $200 for collecting 100 points, Heller said.
Employees will receive the bonuses, totaling more than $74,000, by Dec. 13.
The County Board of Supervisors has approved eight hours per year of work release time for employees to take courses on weight or stress management, blood pressure or cholesterol control, or pre- or postnatal care.
Of the county's 6,800 employees, about 5,500 have gone through the program since its inception in 1985, she said. About 70% of those participants, who have followed through by doing aerobic exercise, stopping smoking or taking other health-saving measures, have earned bonuses.
When the program started, all employees were given a bonus each year for participating, Heller said. But since 1989, a onetime bonus has been granted to each program newcomer.
"We sort of use the cash incentive as a hook," Heller said. "We want to reach a wide cross-section of our employees."
Corporations that have used wellness programs for long periods claim returns of between $4 and $8 for every $1 spent.
The county's program won the Health Action Leadership Award last year for being named the nation's best overall wellness program in the public sector, Heller said.