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Obama Wants Healthier Federal Employees

By Ed O'Keefe

It might be time for more federal employees to take up basketball like the exerciser-in-chief has been known to do. (AP File Photo by Jae C. Hong)

Updated 1:03 p.m. ET

You know the saying that if you want to get ahead in your job it's wise to dress like the boss? Federal employees may also want to start exercising like him.

As President Obama continues his health care reform efforts today, he's asked aides to identify the best private-sector employee wellness and prevention practices and consider adopting similar plans for federal employees and federal workplaces. The Office of Personnel Management will work with the Office of Health Reform, the National Economic Council, the Labor Department and the Office of Management and Budget to develop the plan, Obama announced today.

"There's no quick fix, there's no silver bullet," Obama said today following a meeting with with state health officials and the CEOs of companies that operate employee health care programs.

"Part of what we want to do here, starting here today is to lift up these best practices so other companies can identify and potentially implement them," he said, adding later that he hopes the federal government will also adopt some of the best practices for the benefit of federal employees.

Obama met with the director of an Ohio state government program developed to reduce health risks for Buckeye State employees and representatives of companies that operate employee health care programs, including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, REI and Safeway.

The president's announcement comes as the General Services Administration prepares to take a healthy step next month and close smoking lounges in the 1,500 federal buildings it manages. His instructions are consistent with statements by OPM Director John Berry, who has said he wants the federal government to become a model employer and adopt the best practices of the private sector, if necessary.

While the president has asked OPM to draw up suggested healthy employee programs, each government agency would have to separately adopt and implement any recommendations.

But it might not hurt to "finally" take up running, or go for the salad instead of that big pizza slice next time you visit the cafeteria.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 12, 2009; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Good! If anyone could get my 47 year-old husband to exercise, it's Barack Obama.

Posted by: dolgre | May 12, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

We have a completely broken hiring process. A bloated wasteful and corrupt NSPS and Obama wants to focus on excersizing the federal workplace.

Mr. President? WHERE are your priorities? You are losing your base. Continue to move forward with your promises! Reform the OPM and hiring process and REPEAL the NSPS NOW!

Posted by: darbyohara | May 13, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Dear darbyohara; Are you out of your tree, the President knows how to multitask; some of the things you mentioned can not happen overnight and he is working on them. I think it is great to a President active enough to play basketball, what an awesome mentoring tool for the young and obese children in our country.

Posted by: mariealvey | May 13, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Well could it be that "best practices" are demo-lib-speak for, "I'm going to tell you how to live, or it will cost you"? We are in for a long and costly 4 years of change you can count on!

Posted by: whatchout | May 13, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

To darbyohara and whatchout,

Consider that a physically-fit employee is one who will need less medical care and can stay in the workforce longer, without requiring special accomodations. Therefore, this iniative will, in the long run, save taxpayer money.

The term "best practices" has been around for many, MANY years, and was first coined for use in business-- not government.

Posted by: dcgrasso1 | May 13, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Improving the health and fitness of Federal Govt employees will require an investment of money and time. The Federal Govt will need to consider actually expanding fitness Centers/Programs throughout Govt buildings instead of eliminating them. The Federal Govt will need to consider giving employees time to attend/participate in local and in-house health and wellness fairs/programs. The Federal Govt might also want to relocate Federal employees from "sick buildings" (those bldgs in which a high rate of employees are often getting sick). Govt cafeterias and snack bars need more healthy choices. In-house programs to deal w/stress. Some state of the art workstations that are also treadmills in which employees at their option can utilize for part of their workday. Buildings that have safe and accessible places to sit and walk outside, but close to the bldg. Better bldg design that improves air circulation, lighting, reduces stress, more ergonomic, etc. Govt discounts at local private health/exercise clubs. The Federal Govt invests so little in the working conditions of so many of our Federal employees that even a small investment should reflect positive results.

Posted by: IGellis | May 13, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Why on earth would anyone object to a plan to help America's workforce become healthier? There is a chronic problem of obesity in our country. Fact. The sicker you are, the more your healthcare costs. Fact. (Your blood pressure meds, your cholesterol meds, your freaking weight loss supplements don't come cheap do they?)

And to watchout - the next four years are going to be devoted to undoing the damage done during the last 8 years. Talk about costly -- how much has been spent in Iraq with no resolution?? What is the cost of those young lives that were lost? And where are you going to be when you lose your job or house because you're out on disability because you're no longer fit enough to do your job? Standing in line with your hand out, hoping for federal assistance from the very government you criticize is where. No need to be exercise crazy, but c'mon people.

Posted by: dcunited99 | May 13, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the President can lead the way by quitting his smoking habit...

Posted by: mrichardson2 | May 13, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

snarky snarky snarky

When was the last time YOU played basketball with people 20 years your junior and kept up very well with them, eh?

This is about health care costs for gov't employees, which we all pay for.

It ain't rocket science - try to keep up.

Posted by: lquarton | May 15, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

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