Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, who proposed his own wellness program for state employees in 2004, says the Journey to Wellness " to encourage workers to walk more - is "a good start."
"This is the first time since I've been back in the General Assembly that I've seen a substantial program rather than just an advertising campaign," Carroll told The State Journal.
"However, there is a lot more that needs to be done."
Gov. Steve Beshear announced the wellness program Thursday, which will be implemented in January 2009. Participants will receive a pedometer that will measure the number of steps they make each day.
"A healthy workforce is not only a matter of quality of life for our teachers, state employees, and retirees;
it is critical to government productivity," Behsear said.
Employees who walk 7,000 steps, about 3.5 miles, per day will be entered to win cash prizes or gift cards. There will be 141 monthly winners, with prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Other activity including aerobics or swimming will be converted into "steps" and count toward the total. The program is administered by Virgin HealthMiles and Humana and will be open to members of the Kentucky Employees Health Plan.
The program will not have any cost to the state but any employees who participate will be required to pay $1.50 per month.
Employees can pay an additional $7 or $13 per month, to have more chances to win. Participants can create a personal Web page and upload their results on a daily or weekly basis.
"It's a good start but it doesn't address all the expensive healthcare issues that are costing us substantial dollars," Carroll said.
Carroll said the program is a good way to tackle obesity, but doesn't address other areas, such as disease and prescription management.
Carroll led a task force in 2004 that proposed the creation of a wellness center for state employees, but the idea did not find support in the legislature.
Kentucky ranks very high in obesity, heart disease, tobacco use and asthma, Beshear said.
"The numbers are awful and I am weary of quoting them," he said.
The Journey to Wellness will also include tobacco cessation programs, weight management assistance and a health assessment.
Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson said about 70 percent of the agency's employees participated in a pilot program this summer and collectively lost 300 pounds.
"The results of our pilot program have been outstanding," she said.
About 300 employees participated in a kick-off walk around the Frankfort Convention Center Thursday.
The Journey to Wellness program was announced at a press conference during a health benefits fair at the convention center.