Healthy County spotlight on King County

Wellness coordinator takes extra steps to improve wellness in the small Texas county

By Melissa Maluski

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King County AgriLife Extension Service office manager and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Gilbert uses motivation and creativity to increase health and wellness in King County.

“I'm lucky because in King County, we stay healthy with just daily living. We move a lot, and most people work outdoors after work and on weekends,” she said. “We don’t have any restaurants, so we make our lunch in the kitchen at the courthouse.”

Known for ranching, King County has 265 residents, making it the second smallest county in Texas, according to the 2020 census. Gilbert said the community is generally healthy, and the county also has its own exercise facility.

“I asked the Commissioners Court if we could create an exercise area from a tornado shelter we have,” she said. They approved it, and the exercise room was expanded over time to include treadmills, ellipticals, bicycles, dumbbells and more.

She next needed employee buy-in to utilize the equipment.

“Since we eat lunch at work, I proposed using the last 30 minutes of lunch to exercise. I said, 'Instead of just gossiping for 30 minutes, we can gossip and exercise at the same time,'” she said, laughing.

King County was the overall winner of the TAC Health and Employee Benefits Pool (TAC HEBP) 2021 County vs. County challenge. King County employees averaged more than 9,800 steps a day during the contest period, which ended Aug. 1.

“I always try to be positive and motivate employees because I get sometimes people just don't want to work out,” she said. “I'll say, ‘Even if you don't feel like doing the treadmill, come hang out with us and do the dumbbells.’”

Gilbert was recognized with the Iris Stagner Award at the 2019 Healthy County Boot Camp. The TAC HEBP award is given to the most enthusiastic and innovative county wellness coordinator or sponsor.

“Elizabeth is great, and I frequently use her ideas as a model when I speak to counties who may be struggling with communicating health and wellness initiatives,” said TAC HEBP Wellness Consultant Stacey Bruington. “She has these wellness newsletters, Toilet Talks, that she puts on the back of bathroom stalls, and they're quite popular.”

Gilbert’s Toilet Talks newsletters also feature seasonal information such as sun and mosquito protection in the summer and cold and flu tips in the winter.

“It can sometimes be difficult for our counties’ wellness coordinators and sponsors to increase wellness in their counties,” Bruington said. “[TAC HEBP] always tries to emphasize making healthy habits a lifestyle, which is why it’s so wonderful how Elizabeth and King County have made this their culture.”