An Assessment of Wellness Programs Among Municipalities Within the Austin-San Antonio Corridor
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This applied research project focuses upon the existence and content of wellness programs among municipalities within the Austin-San Antonio Corridor. There are twenty-five municipalities within this area. This research project has three purposes. The first purpose is to describe and identify the ideal characteristics that comprise an effective wellness program using five components identified in the literature as essential components of an effective and comprehensive wellness program: (a) physical fitness; (b) stress management; (c) psychological and mental health; (d) nutrition and dietary related issues; and (e) alcohol and chemical dependency. The second purpose is to assess wellness programs among municipalities within the Austin-San Antonio Corridor by comparing them to the practical ideal type containing the five components mentioned above. Finally, the third purpose is to make recommendations for improving the wellness programs among the twenty-five municipalities. Survey research based upon previous studies was used to carry out the research purpose. Surveys were mailed to Human Resources officers within each of the twenty-five cities. Nineteen of the twenty-five municipalities completed and returned the survey. In general, municipalities provide some form of wellness program that addresses a portion of the recommended components. Overall, larger cities are more likely to provide comprehensive wellness programs than smaller cities. Physical fitness, psychological and mental health, as well as alcohol and chemical dependency were the most common components found among wellness programs in municipalities within the Austin-San Antonio Corridor. Physical fitness programs are voluntary as opposed to mandatory, but few cities provide workout facilities and incentives to encourage employee participation in exercise programs. Regarding psychological and mental health, most municipalities only require fire and police personnel to undergo pre-employment psychological and mental health testing. A majority of municipalities referred only to its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) when describing its alcohol and chemical dependency components and provided no information about that component as a formal and separate part of its wellness program. Based on the findings in this study, several recommendations are made. First, more comprehensive wellness programs need to be established for all of the municipalities, but it is imperative for all five of the wellness program components to be well-integrated. Second, agencies should consider sharing workout facilities with other entities, creating peer support groups and providing financial resources. Third, municipalities should provide education and training about the importance of diet and nutrition. Fourth, there should be more training for supervisors in recognizing stress related problems, mental illness and chemical and alcohol dependency. Fifth and finally, municipalities should develop more effective means for assessing employee needs and finding ways to ensure that those needs are met.