Pasco deputies are throwing their weight around, making big gains—and losses—in the process.
The sheriff's office recently launched a new health and fitness initiative for deputies and staff, which benefits both the participants and the public, Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
"This is part of how we're building up our agency," Nocco said. "The healthier we are, the more productive we'll be."
In May 2012, 500 employees participated in a health risk assessment, which identified four areas of high risk: nutrition, weight, diabetes and exercise.
By committing to working out and making better food choices, our deputies and staff become healthier and lead better lives, Nocco said.
More than 200 employees are participating in the health and fitness program so far, which provides incentives for reaching goals, including a day off work if they reach the highest standard in a fitness test.
The program is "groundbreaking," Deputy Christine Dzikonski said. Dzikonski, who lost 60 pound recently, is a member of the Sheriff's Office's health committee.
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She hopes to see the program not only change the face of the Pasco Sheriff's Office, but also that of other law enforcement agencies, state and nationwide.
In addition to exercise and nutrition support, the committee also is coordinating seminars on subjects such as heart health and smoking cessation, Dzikonski said.
People expect law enforcement officers to be in shape, Nocco said.
In addition to the benefits physical fitness provides in a situation where a struggle is involved, deputies also are role models, he said.
And when the fitness level of the agency's employees goes up, health care costs go down. Savings in health insurance costs can translate to more funding for law enforcement related expenditures, Nocco said.
"We want to do everything possible to ensure our members have a great life and enjoy retirement," Nocco said, noting the tolls shift work in general and a lifetime of working in law enforcement can take on a body based on the stress levels alone.
Couple that stress with poor health habits, and it's not a good combination, he said.
The program is voluntary, and there are no repercussions for not participating, just a lot of incentives, help and encouragement for those who want to take part, Nocco said.