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May 9, 2024

The heart of a healthy community

Community leaders in Wake County, NC inspire employees and residents to live well.

Magazine

Wake County, North Carolina, which is comprised of Raleigh and 11 other municipalities, is one of the fastest growing and most populous counties in the United States. This is fueled, in part, by its consistent ranking as one of the best places in the nation to live and work.

Contributing to Wake County’s inviting reputation is an initiative the local county government launched to keep its employees healthy and happy. “Living Great at Wake” is a holistic health and wellness program offered to the county’s 4,500 employees and their dependents. Wake County’s staff work in various capacities, from public safety to public health, from engineers to customer service representatives, ranging from age 18 to 81.

Wake County also has two onsite employee health centers that offer low- or no-cost medical services to employees and spouses. It also provides more than 1,000 in-person and online wellness programs for everything from diabetes management to smoking cessation to mental health. The county’s human resources (HR) team worked with Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) to shape and guide their wellness programs and benefits packages, keeping costs down while offering employees some of the best options in the marketplace. Employees are incentivized to participate with lower insurance premiums, on top of other robust benefits, including eight weeks of paid leave for new parents, and tuition reimbursement.

“Every health need is going to be different,” says Trinija Martin, deputy director of human resources for Wake County. “Because the scope of our employees’ work is so diverse, we have to be intentional about the programming that we create to help our employees.”

Wake County has won a number of accolades for its healthy living programs, including being inducted into the Healthiest Employers Hall of Fame by Springbuk. In recognizing the regional government entity, the health and data analytics company noted that 91 percent of Wake County’s employees and spouses are actively engaged in two or more of the county’s wellness programs.

Keeping Wake County healthy means that employees can better handle the demands of the 1.1 million-plus residents and 857 square miles of property. 

“In government, as you can imagine, any time there is a crisis or a major event, a political uprising or a global pandemic, our staff have to step up to the occasion, and they have to meet the needs of the general public,” Martin says. “In order to have folks that can do that, they’ve got to be healthy physically and mentally, and they also have to be healthy financially. So that’s why it’s so important for us to focus on the whole employee.”

Wake County’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Angela Crawford, says health and wellness offerings are communicated to county employees through documents, online videos, and department leaders designated as “wellness champions.” Crawford’s team continuously monitors the effectiveness of their health and wellness programs to ensure they’re having a positive impact.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on is meeting people where they are,” she says. “For example, we have a program called ‘New Year, New You,’ and it’s essentially a weight loss program. We can evaluate how many participants we had, the total number of pounds participants lost, and how long they were engaged. We can measure our success and show that it’s working.”

Wake County HR also regularly reviews leave and benefits offerings to make sure it offers the most competitive and comprehensive benefits packages. For instance, at the beginning of 2023, Wake County implemented “wellness leave,” two days of paid leave for full- and part-time employees to take advantage of wellness activities, preventive care, and therapy. Wellness leave can also be used to manage stress, anxiety, or depression they or their immediate family members experience.

The paid leave option is part of the county government’s efforts to promote work-life balance for current employees while making it easier to recruit top talent. 

Todd Reider, vice president of employee health and benefits for MMA’s Mid-Atlantic region, and a Wake County resident, says he’s impressed that the county can facilitate its health and wellness services while maintaining a revenue-neutral tax rate.

“They take their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers very seriously,” he says. “It’s awesome to see that they’ve maintained this very solid position financially. There are very few organizations doing what they do.”

Martin says it wouldn’t have been possible without the support they’ve received from MMA. MMA has helped the county identify areas where it receives the most claims and develop strategies to reduce those problems in the community. She calls MMA one of the best brokerage firms she’s worked with in her 23-year HR career.

“It’s not always about the money; it’s about the people,” Martin says. “MMA is a very proactive partner. They help us to save lives, and that story is what gets lost when you have a broker relationship because they’re usually concerned about the performance and the bottom line. That’s what sets MMA apart.”  

To read more articles, explore our LIMITLESS Magazine.