The town of Natick has decided the best way to prevent employees from taking sick days is to help keep them healthy.
This year the town has started a series of monthly seminars held by the MetroWest Wellness Initiative to promote good nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyles, which just may save money for both the employees and the taxpayers.
"A healthier work force is going to take less sick days, which means they'll be more efficient at work, they'll have greater longevity, and we believe over the long run will use medical care less," said Deputy Town Administrator Michael Walters Young. "The less health care used, the less premiums will be, which will have a direct impact on the taxpayer."
The seminars are taught by Dr. Chris Hauck, owner of Chiropractic Solutions in Framingham, Josh Rosenfeld, owner of Fitness Together in Natick and Sudbury, and Tony Polito, a local chef whose recent cookbook "Fresh" features 10-minute healthy recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients.
The three men, who usually work as wellness consultants for private companies in their roles with the MetroWest Wellness Initiative, are working for Natick for free.
"These gentlemen came to us and said they wanted to give back to their communities," said Young. "They all practice or live in MetroWest, and they know how hard government employees work, and they wanted this opportunity."
The program breaks down big concepts like "eat healthy" and "exercise daily" to manageable and easy-to-follow steps that aren't overwhelming.
"We're just sick and tired of living in a sick and tired community, and if we could just get this information out to the community we know this could make a difference," Hauck said. "To us, it just seemed like the right thing to do."
As a member of the West Suburban Health Group, a collaborative of towns that buys health care in bulk, Natick receives a minimum of $14,000 a year to spend on wellness programming.
Town Administrator Martha White pointed to the small gym the town has built for employees at Town Hall, as well as a pilot program in the Police Department to give officers individualized health and nutrition training and advice, as examples of other wellness initiatives.
"We've had good participation in many of the programs - some more successful than others. But we're learning and we'll keep tailoring it to employee needs," she said.