AIKEN --- The city of Aiken has substantially reduced its workers' compensation premiums by about $50,000 compared with 2007 premiums.
"It's very unusual," City Manager Roger LeDuc said. "In today's society, there's more and more workers' comp claims."
In comparison to some other cities in South Carolina, Aiken's 2008 modified premium is about $319,000 less, according to the city's recent newsletter.
In the past three years, the city has seen a 40 percent decrease in workers' compensation and a 22 percent decrease in absenteeism, Mr. LeDuc said.
He credits the good fortune to the city's wellness program, implemented four years ago, and accident prevention.
More than 300 city employees participate in Aiken's wellness program, an initiative the city implemented in 2003 in partnership with Aiken Regional Medical Centers to combat increasing absenteeism and workers' compensation payouts.
One of the first things the city did was start a gym-reimbursement program for employees and their spouses.
The city also increased the wellness benefit on the health insurance to encourage employees and their families to get yearly physical exams and testing.
The wellness program is an initiative the city hopes to get the community involved in.
"We know we have a long way to go with what we want to do," Mr. LeDuc said.
Glenn Parker, the director of Aiken's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, said the city wants to design a program that has the potential to reach the entire community.
"We think it will have a lasting effect," he said.
Mr. Parker cited the following statistics: one in three children are overweight, 61 percent of South Carolina adults are overweight or obese, and 26 percent of low-income children in South Carolina are overweight or at risk of being overweight.
He said a community program could involve signs being installed downtown to inform pedestrians about distances traveled by foot from certain starting and ending points.
Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.