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September 25, 2023

Workplace Wellness Is Critical to Improving the Health of Tennesseans

Workplace Wellness Is Critical to Improving the Health of Tennesseans

By: Rick Johnson, CEO, Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness

In many ways Tennessee is one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family. But, as we look toward the future, there is a crucial area in which we still have much work to do – improving our health and the overall health of our state.

Chronic, behavior-related diseases and health conditions in Tennessee are at near-epidemic levels.  Hypertension and stroke, Type II diabetes, heart disease, COPD and asthma, and several types of cancer are among the highest in the nation.  The result is a health crisis of our making, one that is estimated to cost us more than $6 billion every year in Tennessee and that leads to lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and a diminished quality of life.

While the statistics can be overwhelming, there is also good news.  If we start now and take small, simple, affordable steps, we can make a positive difference.

Help is available through the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, a non-profit corporation established by Gov. Bill Haslam in August 2013.

The Foundation’s Healthier Tennessee initiative is offering simple, easy-to-use, and easily accessible ways for individuals to start being more active, eating healthier, and not using tobacco.  For Tennessee workplaces, there is a free wellness toolkit at that encourages employees to get healthier together. The program, Small Starts @ Work, is available at and provides simple, low or no cost ways to help create healthier workplaces. It is easy to use and can be adapted for businesses and organizations of all sizes.

As business leaders, I encourage each of you to explore Small Starts @ Work and consider starting a workplace wellness program in your own organization. Healthier workplaces are good for employees, for business, and for Tennessee. If you already have a wellness program, I ask that you to take a look at Small Starts and see if there are ways to refresh and strengthen your current program.

We have to make health a top priority in our state because we can’t continue to bear the cost: painful chronic diseases and multi-billion-dollar expense that are the result of health-related behavior by millions of us.  So, let’s explore ways you can support the work of the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness. Together, I know we can make this a healthier Tennessee.

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