The Sonoma County Economic Development Board, along with the county Department of Health Services and Health Action, recently launched the Healthy Businesses Recognition Program, as the wellness trend wends its way through nearly every sector.

Since the launch, nine businesses have been recognized for efforts focusing on employee health and wellness initiatives. Recipients of the gold designation include Agilent Technologies, Kaiser Permanente, Northern California Center for Well-Being, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park Oral Surgery, St. Joseph Health System--Sonoma County and Strauss Family Creamery. West County Health Centers received a silver designation and La Tortilla Factory received a bronze.

Part of the iWORK wellness initiative, the recognition program awards -- modeled on LEED certifications for environmentally friendly buildings, but with health and work-related programs -- are "based on the breadth and depth of their wellness initiatives," according to the Economic Development Board.

The program is a voluntary certification effort that recognizes employers for "implementing practical employee wellness programs and is aimed at using workforce wellness to help attract and retain employees in local firms, and also enhance productivity through reduced absences," according to the board.

"We're really just trying to foster a healthier community," said Alena Wall, executive director of the Northern California Center for Well-Being, which helped to develop criteria and standards for the recognition program. The center was asked to develop a low-cost product for employers by Health Action, and is currently doing so with Reach Air, an ambulance company based in Santa Rosa, Ms. Wall said.

The application used to determine the recognition level was developed based on national and regional wellness standards, and reflects the surgeon general’s recommendations for employee health in the 21st century, according to the Economic Development Board.

Ms. Wall said the first 20 or so companies to apply and receive recognition would likely be heavily promoted, such as an official declaration from the county.

"We want to make it a big deal for the businesses that are proactive," Ms. Wall said.

More information and the application for businesses can be found at