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Larson to lead Bemidji Chamber board

BEMIDJI — Warren Larson has accepted the role as chairman of the board for the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, which has marked its 105th year.

Warren Larson

Larson has been an active volunteer with the Chamber for many years when he became a member of the Chamber board of directors in September 2006.

Larson, director of public affairs for Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota in Bemidji, has over the years partnered with many Bemidji organizations to address health-related issues.

He is the co-founder of the Beltrami Tobacco Education Awareness Movement, the Northern Dental Access Clinic and the Celebrate Kindness Campaign. Larson  is also an active member of numerous local civic organizations and holds leadership positions within the Midwest Division of the American Cancer Society and the Minnesota Cancer Alliance. He was named Minnesota Rural Health Hero by the Minnesota Department of Rural Health and Trustee of the Year by the Minnesota Hospital Association, and  he received the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health from the National Rural Health Association.

“I enjoy working with community partners addressing health-related issues and finding local solutions” said Larson. “This community has incredibly talented individuals who are very creative and willing to take on important initiatives. The Bemidji Chamber is an organization that has made many positive improvements for our community and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to play a small role in its important work.”

This year, Larson would like to focus the Chamber’s attention on the benefits businesses can realize by attacking the high cost of unhealthy employees. According to the RAND Corporation, 6.6 percent of adults in the United States were severely obese in 2010, compared with 3.9 percent in 2000. With 75 percent of employer-paid health-care costs tied to lifestyle-related illnesses, Larson believes that persuading employees to change unhealthy behaviors can have a huge and direct impact on health-care costs for employers.

“Businesses face a twofold problem when employees are unhealthy,” Larson said. “First, sick employees drive ever-rising health-care costs. Second, unhealthy employees place an enormous burden on their employers in the form of lost productivity, a cost that greatly outweighs direct spending on health care. Employers of every size and across all industries are finding that one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle both of these critical cost drivers is by implementing wellness programs. Our Chamber organizations at the local, state and national level can play a major role in helping to address this major health issue and ensure that American workers will continue to be healthy, strong, and ready to compete in today’s global market.”