Program helps workers prioritize fitness, eating right


For Regina Schumaker, the day-to-day grind of work, family responsibilities and stress were wearing her down. Like many of us, taking time to eat right and to exercise took a back seat to simply getting everything done on her daily to-do list. Unlike most of us, Regina also had to deal with the added emotional pain of being recently widowed and facing a future without her life partner.

One afternoon, a Local 1000 member-activist at the Department of Public Health (DPH) told Regina about a new fitness project for state workers. In partnership with Local 1000, the program was designed by CalHR, CalPERS, Kaiser Permanente and the State Controller’s Office. At the time, Regina, a DPH Program Technician with over 28 years in state service, was at a crossroads. “When my husband died, my whole life crumbled, and I had no energy to do anything.  I had no enthusiasm for life. But I also had a choice. I could either stay stuck in a rut or pick myself up and get active. Healthier U really gave me an opportunity to focus on taking care of myself again. The program made all the difference.”
Healthier U started off in 2012 as a pilot wellness program at the Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) in partnership with Local 1000. Participants in the program undergo health screenings and are educated about the role that nutrition and exercise plays in health outcomes. State workers use their breaks and lunch periods to go for brisk walks and to share effective strategies with one another about how to develop healthy habits at work and at home.

Healthier U has helped get thousands of state workers active over the last three years. According to recent data compiled by the project research team, a higher percentage of Healthier U participants at DPH and DHCS are exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables. Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker sees this as progress: “The success of the Healthier U program demonstrates what can be accomplished when state agencies, community partners and Local 1000 are able to identify common goals and to work together to achieve them. Healthier state employees save the state money and, more importantly, improve lives. Healthier U is moving us in the right direction.”