DRA, Southern Illinois University initiate program to support healthy living among workforce

February 12, 2014

DRA investment will combat the high toll of chronic disease through behavioral change in the workplace Chairman Marshall: “A healthy workforce is necessary to support a healthy economy and a healthy Delta region.”
CARBONDALE, Ill. – The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development received today the official notice to proceed for a program to combat chronic disease among the Delta region’s workforce.

Delta Regional Authority Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall initiated a $187,500 investment to support Southern Illinois University in working with regional partners and businesses across the 16 southernmost counties of Illinois to increase the number of worksites involved in permanent worksite wellness programs. Eight of these Delta counties have the lowest health outcomes in the state. This region is also currently participating in We Choose Health’s Southernmost Illinois Initiative due to high rates of chronic disease.

The investment is part of the DRA’s Healthy Workforce Challenge, which has funded programs in five states to incentivize healthy lifestyles through workplace programming. This project will utilize the Wellness Council of America’s program to develop a toolkit for employee wellness promotion, conduct local workshops and wellness trainings and classes, and engage in health assessments.

 “It is very exciting to be a part of helping create a workplace culture that reinforces healthy lifestyles, bringing benefits to employers, employees, and the Delta Region,” said Jeff Franklin, Illinois Delta Network/Illinois CATCH onto Health Consortium Director. Franklin attributes the overall success of Southern Illinois University’s health initiatives to collaboration among regional partners, including the Jackson County and Egyptian Health Departments and NeuroRestorative in Carbondale.

Rates of chronic disease in the Delta are painfully high–according to the DRA’s regional health database–with death rates from circulatory disease 16 percent higher than national averages and 12 percent more Delta residents reporting they have Diabetes compared to nationwide rates. The selected counties struggle with high rates of tobacco use, a shortage of health and prevention resources, physical inactivity, and some of the highest rates of obesity in the state.

“Creating a healthier workforce in southern Illinois is the right thing to do, and it will pay dividends for generations to come,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “This investment will improve the quality of life for many residents of the region while driving the economy forward.”

Accordingly, businesses in the Delta currently pay disproportionate costs related to chronic disease due to the high rates in the region. However, businesses participating in the Healthy Workforce Challenge are expected to incur savings through improved health outcomes that result in increased productivity and decreased workplace absences. The costs of providing employee health care will also decrease as employee health improves.

 “A healthy workforce will directly support a healthier economy and thus stronger Delta region,” said Mike Marshall, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. “This investment in Southern Illinois University will help to address some of our most dire health problems in the Delta through strategic workplace intervention, improving the lives of our workforce and increasing productivity for our region’s businesses.”

“Today’s announcement is a step forward for the health and well-being of people in Southernmost Illinois,” U.S. Congressman William Enyart said. “Through partnerships with local health departments and employers, the DRA’s commitment will help strengthen our region’s best asset – its people. Investing in a healthy workforce will help our region now and for generations to come.”

Each of the five DRA Healthy Workforce Challenge awardees is also the recipient of a larger grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration that will distribute $5.4 million to twelve sites across the Delta as part of the Delta States Rural Development Network Grant Program.

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta. Through twelve cycles of federal investment, the Authority is helping to create and retain more than 41,000 jobs and has leveraged $2.7 billion in other public and private investment.


Contact: Spencer Lucker
202-434-4842, slucker@dra.gov