DRA invests more than $160,000 to support healthy living among West Alabama workforce

January 22, 2014

DRA investment will combat the high toll of chronic disease through behavioral change in the workplace

Chairman Marshall: “A healthy workforce is necessary to support a healthy economy and a healthy Delta region.”

DEMOPOLIS, Ala. – West Alabama will receive a major investment in resources to combat chronic disease among the Delta region’s workforce, Delta Regional Authority Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall announced today. The DRA initiated a $163,144.50 investment to support the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority (THA) in partnering with hospitals servicing Greene, Hale, Sumter and Marengo counties to improve the health of their workers.  By targeting hospital workers, THA will be able to work with employees to set an example for patients at their facilities.

The investment is part of the DRA’s Healthy Workforce Challenge, which has funded programs in five states to incentivize healthy lifestyles through workplace programming. This project will utilize the Wellness Council of America’s program to develop a toolkit for employee wellness promotion, conduct local workshops and wellness trainings and classes, and engage in health assessments.

“We are very excited to implement this program,” said Mike Marshall, Tombigbee Healthcare Authority CEO/Administrator. “We work continuously to help our community develop healthier lifestyles. This program will give us the right tools to achieve that goal first at our own hospital, then to other hospitals and ultimately businesses in the area.” 

Rates of chronic disease in the Delta are painfully high–according to the DRA’s regional health database–with death rates from circulatory disease 16 percent higher than national averages and 12 percent more Delta residents reporting they have Diabetes compared to nationwide rates.

The selected counties struggle with high rates of tobacco use, a shortage of health and prevention resources, physical inactivity and some of the highest rates of obesity in the state. “Learning a healthier lifestyle can prevent or minimize many illnesses,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Hospital workers who practice healthy behaviors can be a positive influence on patients, reduce the incidence of chronic disease and help lower healthcare costs.”

Accordingly, businesses in the Delta currently pay disproportionate costs related to chronic disease due to the high rates in the region. However, businesses participating in the Healthy Workforce Challenge are expected to incur savings through improved health outcomes that result in increased productivity and decreased workplace absences. The costs of providing employee health care will also decrease as employee health improves. 

“A healthy workforce will directly support a healthier economy and thus stronger Delta region,” said Chairman Marshall, of the Delta Regional Authority. “This investment in the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority will help to address some of our most dire health problems in the Delta through strategic workplace intervention, improving the lives of our workforce and increasing productivity for our region’s businesses.”

Each of the five DRA Healthy Workforce Challenge awardees is also the recipient of a larger grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration that will distribute $5.4 million to twelve sites across the Delta as part of the Delta States Rural Development Network Grant Program.

“Poor health is an economic burden on the nation and costs millions of dollars in terms of diminished health and productivity,” added Marshall, CEO of THA. “This program will help us to establish a healthier workforce to help our area grow and flourish. With the coming changes to Medicaid, programs like this will be even more important to hospitals and the communities they serve.”

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta. Through twelve cycles of federal investment, the Authority is helping to create and retain more than 41,000 jobs and has leveraged $2.7 billion in other public and private investment.

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Contact:  Spencer Lucker
202-434-4842, slucker@dra.gov