The village and the Park District of Forest Park are forming a committee that will focus on the health of its employees to fulfill a requirement of a $145,000 grant the village received from the Cook County Department of Public Health earlier this year.

At its Oct. 11 council meeting, the village board passed a resolution, stating that it would create a Worksite Wellness Policy and, subsequently, a Wellness Committee to promote healthy lifestyles among its employees and those who work for the park district. As part of the resolution, the village will sponsor educational seminars on nutrition and health, promoting active living, and encouraging employees to attend an upcoming health fair, among other things.

According to the policy, the committee will comprise “one employee representing each [village and park district] department.”

The committee is still a work in progress, but Mayor Anthony Calderone said it will likely consist of nine or 10 individuals who already work for the village and the park district. There will be no pay hike for the added responsibility, the mayor said.

The committee will include nutrition, increasing physical activity, implementing stress management and tobacco-use cessation.

Educational tools and materials will be available at village hall and the park district and there will also be seminars, the policy states. On Nov. 2, for instance, the village is hosting the Cindy Lyons Health Fair and offering employees an incentive if they come out to get flu shots and screenings. The event is at the Howard Mohr Community Center, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

“If they come and participate in a handful of those screenings, they’ll be able to qualify for a $20 Visa gift card,” Calderone said.

The village and park district must also make sure that at least 50 percent of the foods and beverages sold or available at either location be “healthy and affordable,” per policy guidelines.

To discourage smoking among employees, information on tobacco-cessation programs will be made available to workers. And the policy states that “environmental changes will be made to reduce smoking at worksites.”

Commissioner Tom Mannix, who is a smoker, said he’ll take advantage of the tobacco-cessation programs. He said he isn’t sure if he’ll end up quitting, but he’ll try.

“I am a habitual quitter. It’s been an ongoing battle,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll be the nail in the coffin, but I’ll try.”

“It’s not something I’m proud of,” he added.

Mayor Calderone also smokes, and when asked if he’d consider using the programs to quit, he said, “Of course.”

Both the policy and the committee are mandated as part of the $145,000 Model Communities grant the village received from the Cook County Department of Public Health back in February.

The grant stipulates that any money spent implementing programs will be reimbursed when the village bills the county. 

The village and the park district are not the only entities involved. District 91 schools, Live Healthy Forest Park (a health program funded by the village), the Forest Park Public Library, the Community Garden and other organizations are all part of the program, said Denise Murray, coordinator of Live Healthy Forest Park.

The village has taken other action to promote health and wellness. In August, it passed a Complete Streets resolution. The resolution basically states that any future construction to roads be equally accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists. The idea is to promote alternate methods of transportation.

“It’s comprehensive,” said Murray, describing the village’s efforts to implement a variety of programs and initiatives, “with the objective being, making your environment a healthier place to live.”