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MISSISSIPPI PROFILES: The Mississippi Business Group on Health

Murray Harber

ALAN TURNER

There are many challenges in the health care field these days. Costs are skyrocketing, access to care is a continuing problem in many areas, and businesses and their employees are being negatively impacted in many ways.

One group in Mississippi is working diligently to make a difference. The Mississippi Business Group on Health, established in 2014 as an association for Mississippi employers who were becoming increasingly  concerned not only with the rapid rise of cost in providing good health care benefits for their employees, but also concerned over the negative impact on workplace productivity for employees who were not healthy.

The mission of the MBGH is straightforward: to work hard at creating healthy workplaces for employees, encouraging good health practices, and supporting employees and their families. This is obviously a win-win scenario in which all benefit, and during the past few years, both small and large employers have seen the benefits of adopting wellness and healthy workplace programs for their employees.

I talked recently with Murray Harber, Executive Director for the MBGH, for a perspective on how these programs benefit companies and employees alike.

Murray came back to the South after spending years in Minnesota, where he was an exercise physiologist, college coach, and had in-depth experience in building and supporting wellness programs. Since arriving in Mississippi, he’s been a leading proponent of workplace wellness programs throughout the state.

I asked Murray why healthy workplaces are so important for businesses of all sizes.

“To begin with, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Workplace wellness programs definitely help to lower absenteeism, increase productivity, improve morale, and help to reduce costs for the companies and their employees. Those are great benefits for all concerned.”

Murray told me that they’re working to create partnerships between employers and employees through transparency and consumerism, so that employees become more knowledgeable about their own health practices and options.

“We work hard to help folks get the best care at the lowest cost,” he said.

How can that be accomplished?

“A great program is one that incorporates good choices, such as diet and water, exercise, and definitely, awareness of important and beneficial practices for employees and their families,” he said.

Does a company need to be large in order to create and support workplace wellness programs?

“Absolutely not,” Murray said. “Even companies with a small number of employees can develop an effective program in their workplace, and everyone will share the benefits. We see many instances of smaller companies getting folks involved and excited, because it’s hard to argue that healthier employees are not happy and productive employees.”

We discussed the upcoming Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces awards. The program is a partnership between the MBGH, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Mississippi Business Journal.

“That’s coming up in July,” Murray said. “There’s a lot of excitement about this year’s program, and it’s really great to be able to recognize employers of all sizes for their accomplishments in workplace wellness.”

To participate, companies submit information on their workplace wellness programs, what they offer, how they support the programs, and the results that they have seen in their workplaces as a result of the program.

“It’s all about keeping folks healthy and away from catastrophic health events which compromise their lives and those of their families,” Murray said. “Through the Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces awards, we all learn about those companies that have helped their employees to achieve that goal, and coincidentally, helped to reduce their own costs and improve workplace productivity.”

Murray encourages all Mississippi employers to consider establishing wellness programs. More information about the MBGH and the Healthiest Workplaces event can be found on their website at MSBGH.com, as well as on the Mississippi Business Journal site at MSBusiness.com.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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