Our Town Belfast is seeking small businesses to help form a committee focusing on creating health-related programs.

The committee, comprised of small business members and wellness professionals, is part of a statewide health initiative funded through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The funding, which totals $1.64 million for the state of Maine, will be distributed to the participating communities over a two-year period.

Our Town Belfast Executive Director Breanna Bebb said the initiative, “Healthy Maine Streets,” is being offered in 20 down-towns in Maine. The purpose of the program is to target small businesses — those with 20 employees or fewer — in the areas of nutrition, physical activity and smoking cessation.

Bebb said she is looking for 10 small businesses to join the committee, which will meet about once a month. Once the committee is formed, a survey will be sent to local businesses to assess the level of wellness of the employees. Joining business members on the committee will be health professionals from local organizations, Bebb said.

Our Town Belfast board member Rebecca Miller will chair the committee.

With that information in hand, the committee will begin creating programs and events, such as hosting a downtown field day or encouraging people to walk to work. In addition, Bebb said the committee would work to make health-related resources in the community more readily available.

Bebb explained that encouraging employees to engage in healthy activities is good for the bottom line of a business, because the employees will miss fewer days due to illness and be more productive.

While the goal is to encourage healthier behaviors, Bebb said the intent of the committee and the initiative is not to force employees to participate.

“We’re not imposing law on anyone,” Bebb said.

The idea for the Healthy Maine Streets initiative came from a program that was done in Skowhegan. The program was so successful that there was a desire to open it up to other municipalities, Bebb said.

"I'm really excited about this," Bebb said.

Any interested businesses can contact Bebb at 323-9100 or at bre@ourtownbelfast.org. She said she hopes to have the committee fully formed by May 31.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.