Over 1,600 State Employees Walk to Better Health; New Initiative Kicks Off January 11, 2013


BOSTON – (1/11/13) – Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration’s efforts to give state employees tools and resources to improve their personal health, the Group Insurance Commission today announced the success of the Step It Up! walking campaign and the launch of a weight-loss challenge tool kit for state agencies participating in the WellMASS program.

“WellMASS and its programs are a cost-free benefit for state employees that they can take advantage of to improve the quality of their lives,” said Governor Patrick. “A healthier workforce means lower health insurance costs for state government and state employees, and more resources for critical programs and services the public needs.”

Over 1,600 state employees throughout the Commonwealth participated in the Group Insurance Commission’s WellMASS wellness program’s Step It Up! walking campaign this past fall. Participants were challenged to walk 10,000 steps (the equivalent of about five miles) each day and tracked their steps with a pedometer. Sixty-three teams competed, with 104 state agencies represented. Over the course of the six-week campaign, state employees walked 166,936,537 steps – that’s approximately 84,000 miles! Step It Up! provided employees with a fun way to improve their health by increasing their daily activity while many used the campaign as an impetus to make other changes to their diet and lifestyle and have kept up these changes since the campaign ended.

“The Group Insurance Commission is helping state workers to become more active and take charge of their health,” said Dolores L. Mitchell, GIC Executive Director.  “These efforts will translate into a healthier workforce and lower costs for our employees and the Commonwealth.”

Building on the success of the Step It Up! campaign, the Group Insurance Commission announced today a WellMASS Weight Loss Challenge Toolkit, available free to all eligible state employees. Participants will have many resources and information needed to safely lose one to two pounds each week, with the goal of losing 6-12 pounds by the end of the six-week challenge. Eligible agencies will also have the opportunity to participate in a state-wide weight loss competition; the team with the greatest average percent body weight lost will win a healthy lunch.

WellMASS programs have helped state employees reach their personal health goals.

Department of Environmental Protection employee David Slowick found that Step It Up! helped him lose weight and become more active: “I enjoyed participating in the Step It Up! program and worked my way up to walking an average of 25,000 steps per day,” said Mr. Slowick. “I lost approximately 10 pounds during the duration of the program, and have continued to track my steps daily following completion of the program.”

Group Insurance Commission employee Margaret Byrne is another Step It Up! success story. “Since participating in the WellMASS Step It Up! campaign, I walk as much as possible,” said Ms. Byrne. “Now, I no longer take the escalator when I get off at the train station; instead I use stairs and walk during my lunch hour. On the days I don’t exercise, my husband and I do a three-mile walk around our neighborhood, which I probably never would have thought of doing if I didn’t participate in the WellMASS Step It Up! campaign.”

The GIC was established by the Legislature in 1955 to provide health, life, and other benefits to state employees, retirees, and their dependents. The GIC also covers housing and redevelopment authorities' personnel, participating municipalities, and retired municipal employees and teachers in certain governmental units. There are currently over 220,000 members and 400,000 lives covered by the GIC. A seventeen-member commission representing labor, retirees, municipal management, the public interest, the Administration, and expertise in health economics governs the GIC.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.