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Press release

CalChamber News: Federal Grants Available for Business Workplace Wellness Programs

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Denise Davis
(916) 444-6670

CalChamber News: Federal Grants Available for Business Workplace Wellness Programs
Wellness Programs and Preventing Illness Are New Model for Health Care

SACRAMENTO, CA — As California moves toward implementation of the Affordable Care Act, wellness programs that promote healthy choices to prevent illness are in the spotlight of the latest edition of CalChamber News. Under the law, federal grants may be available to some small businesses to offset the cost of established wellness programs, and insurance companies must provide wellness services, such as counseling and health screenings, at no extra cost to the employee.

Companies such as Safeway have made the investment and launched a workplace wellness program long ago, encouraging workers to take personal responsibility for their health.

Larree M. Renda, executive vice president for Safeway and 2010 chair of the CalChamber Board of Directors, reports that the company’s wellness program has been extremely successful for employees and the company’s bottom line.

“When we survey our employees, we know they are more engaged as a result of the wellness programs that we’ve offered here,” says Renda. “We also know they’re happier in their jobs and become more productive employees.”

The results are remarkable. By encouraging health screenings, immunizations, and programs to manage weight and quit smoking, Safeway and its workforce have saved substantially on health care costs through reduced absenteeism, reduced claims and fewer doctors’ visits.

“And while the rest of the world has had on average an 8 percent, 8-and-a-half percent health care cost increase on an annual basis, our costs are nearly flat,” Renda says.

One example of the success of Safeway’s wellness program is Eric Ward, a facilities manager with the company. Ward has taken full advantage of Safeway’s wellness program. By consciously choosing fresh fruit or vegetables to snack on, keeping a regular running schedule and making consistent use of Safeway’s state-of-the-art fitness center at company headquarters, he’s lost more than 60 pounds.

“I have a lot more energy, I have a lot more,” says Ward. “I can lead my people as opposed to manage them. I listen to them more; I’m more attentive as opposed to just being tired.”

Based on a Texas case study, wellness programs can yield savings of $2.43 for every dollar spent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On a larger scale, it’s the kind of math that adds up for any business, regardless of size.

“I think wellness is not just a smart business practice for the people who benefit, but also for the employers themselves,” says Dr. Sanjay Varshney, dean of the School of Business at California State University, Sacramento.

Renda sums up the benefits best, saying, “Any business that doesn’t invest in its employees and wellness programs is really missing a huge opportunity.”
Businesses interested in learning more about how to establish a workplace wellness program and the tangible benefits it creates should visit


About the California Chamber of Commerce:
The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) is the largest broad-based business advocate to government in California. Membership represents one-quarter of the private sector jobs in California and includes firms of all sizes and companies from every industry within the state. Leveraging our front-line knowledge of laws and regulations, we provide products and services to help businesses comply with both federal and state law. CalChamber, a not-for-profit organization with roots dating to 1890, promotes international trade and investment in order to stimulate California’s economy and create jobs. Please visit our website at

About Health Law Guide for Business:
Established in partnership with the Bay Area Council, California Chamber of Commerce, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Restaurant Association, California Small Business Development Centers, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Pacific Business Group on Health, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Small Business California, Small Business Majority, and The California Endowment, Health Law Guide for Business is a first-of-its kind website devoted to informing California’s business community about business-specific provisions of the health care law. As an information hub for California businesses, the media and employees, Health Law Guide for Business provides accurate information on the health care law that’s most important for employers to run and operate their businesses. Learn more by visiting: