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More city workers needed with health initiative.

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is challenging its employees to get fit, and it could help save the city a few bucks.

The Natchez Planning and Community Development Department is working in conjunction with Natchez Community Hospital, Natchez Regional Medical Center, Jefferson Comprehensive Clinic and the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Adams, Jefferson and Franklin counties on a new “NatcHealth” healthy workplace initiative.

Special Projects Assistant Analisa Therrien is working with Community Development Director James Johnston to coordinate the city’s health initiative, which she said is aimed at ensuring employees take advantage of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Healthy You program.

Johnston informed the Natchez Board of Aldermen in January that the city is currently paying for the benefit, but only 5 percent of employees were enrolled.

Therrien said the city educated city employees about the program a couple of weeks ago through a blood pressure screening at all of the city departments. Tanya Hurst with Natchez Community Hospital conducted the screenings, and Paige Dickey with the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition educated interested employees on assistance for quitting smoking.

Therrien said the city is planning at least two health care related events a month to get employees enrolled in the health initiative, including a “lunch and learn” event Wednesday during which employees’ nutrition knowledge will be tested by trivia. A dietician from Natchez Community will also give a presentation on nutrition to the employees.

The city will also host another lunch event April 24, at which teams of city employees can compete in a health trivia challenge for prizes.

Therrien said the events are geared toward making health and nutrition fun for the employees.

“I think when you sit through a lecture, you can get bored,” she said. “I really want to develop it where people get involved and make it interesting.”

The city may also host a weight-loss challenge for employees in May, Therrien said.

“It’s growing, and I see more and more people getting involved, once it gets some momentum,” she said.

Therrien said the city has been fortunate enough not to have to pick up the cost of holding events for the initiative because the agencies involved have provided their services free of charge.

Mayor Butch Brown said the health of city employees is a priority, and healthier employees could mean a healthier budget.

“If we have a healthy, well workforce, we’ll have fewer claims, and our rates will go down,” he said.

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