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Over a catered breakfast of sausage and fruit, Howard County officials celebrated Tuesday morning the 28 local businesses that have applied for and achieved "Healthy Workplace" designations from the Health Department.

The ceremony, held at Linden Hall, the community center at the Dorsey Hall Village Center, is part of the county's effort to create a model public health community in Howard, partly by encouraging businesses to consider their workers' health in their everyday workplace practices.

More than 70 people heard health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson, County Executive Ken Ulman and chamber of commerce president and CEO Pam Klahr praise the program, which grew from a smaller effort begun several years ago by the chamber and the Horizon Foundation.

The program asks businesses to create a "culture of wellness" with physical activity, good nutrition in food offerings, good environmental health standards in the workplace, safety and good mental health practices.

The businesses honored ranged from insurance offices, chiropractors and auto repair shops to county government, schools, libraries, interfaith centers and banks.

Klahr cited statistics from the Wellness Council of America that say that for every $1 spent on wellness, a business can save $3.48 on employee health care and $5.82 on reduced absenteeism.

The practices "not only make for healthier employees, but make for a healthier bottom line," Beilenson said. The awards are given once a year.

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