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Workplace Health Promotion Programs

Workplace Health

Since the beginning of time – Workplaces have been contributing to Illness – stressors on deadlines, product delivery, desk job physical inactivity, factory noise levels, and other job related activities that tax the body’s mental and physical abilities.

Current research suggests that when done right, Workplaces that implement both health promotion and disease prevention programs can improve employee health while reducing health care costs and increasing productivity and engagement.

One major issue facing all employers is preventable chronic disease (e.g diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity) where most of the health care costs are paid out.  By implementing health promotion programs which address prevention, high-risk individuals, and disease management employers can have a positive influence on health behaviors.

The three tiers for a successful program include:

Primary Prevention – preventing illness or disease from occurring(stress mgmt, anti-smoking campaigns, physical challenges)

Secondary Prevention – directed to high-risk individuals (smoking cessation, weight mgmt, easy access to medication)

Tertiary Prevention – disease management for existing conditions (access to diabetes medication, counseling/therapy)

Workplace Wellness programs, according to the CDC’s Community Preventive Services Task Force work by influencing positive health behaviors, improving biometric measures – blood pressure & cholesterol, and financial outlay.  A recent meta-analysis indicated that people who participated in an employer’s well-defined health promotion program had 25% lower medical and absentee expenditures than did their non-participant colleagues.

The key for any health & wellness promotion program is that they are designed with best practice principles, implemented across the organization, have support from all levels, and utilize evaluation methods while the program is running.

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Workplace Wellness

Workplace Wellness is not an Oxymoron!

So many articles, posts, blogs, and chatter about Employee Engagement – Well-Being – and Workplace Wellness- does it really matter?  

Bad News

Actually, it matters more than many employers care to realize or invest in and the result is crushing a company’s bottom line with increased costs related to health care, absenteeism, turnover, disability, pre-mature death payouts, loss productivity, and a decay of the work environment.

Good News

Collaborative research by the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Transamerica Center for Health Studies developed an Employer Guide of evidence based practices that employers can replicate at minimal cost based on real-world examples.  These health promotion programs have indicated significant positive health impacts for the workforce and workplace based on pre-post evaluation assessments and take into account both individual and organizational risk factors. 

Risk Factors

Company wellness programs often fail due to being one-sided.  Programs focusing only on employee risk factors do not make allowances for organizational factors such as employee input, engagement, and leadership support.  Comprehensive programs achieve both a ROI and a VOI as they build a culture of health and blend the individual-level health promotion goals with the organization’s goals and are supported by leadership buy-in.

Individual Organizational 
Physical Activity Leadership Commitment
Nutrition Leadership Support
Weight Management Strategic Communications
Stress Management Employee Engagement
Smoking Cessation Smart Incentives
Sleep Management Tailoring Programs
Social Connections Environmental Support
Alcohol Management Benefit Plan Design
Diabetes Management Measurement and Evaluation

Health Promotion Programs

In order for workplace wellness to thrive in organizations human resource personnel, senior management, and all level stakeholders must become aware of the many facets of Health & Wellness and develop health promotion programs based on evidence-based practices.  This BLOG will continue to discuss the individual and organizational risk factors over the next few months…..stay tuned.

 

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Action Plan to Wellness

The popular movie “The Wizard of Oz” has a well-known song – “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” sung by Munchkins who offer five words of advice. They tell Dorothy in little magical voices to Follow the Yellow Brick Road and repeat the word “Follow” five more times.

Aside from assuring Dorothy the yellow bricks will take her to a wonderful wizard, “…who is wonderful because of the wonderful things he does,” the munchkins don’t offer much more of what the road may hold for Dorothy.  However, Dorothy has powerful Ruby Red Slippers to protect her on the journey and takes off in search of OZ and finding the wizard who will get her home.

WOW what a story – imagine following pretty yellow stepping-stones and arriving at Wellnessville where all dreams and desires happen by a wizard?  Stop Dreaming – Your “Road” to wellness requires more than Ruby Slippers, it requires personal action.

An earlier post, “Assessing Wellness”  illustrated a Wheel of Life as a method of determining where one is across many personal dimensions. The wheel displays a visual of how a life is functioning – smooth, choppy, or in need of a major overhaul. This second tool, your Action Plan, consists of taking a few wheel pieces and deciding how to create change. Even though you may select only one or two pieces to focus on, improving one area of your life elevates overall wellness.

Action planning can be as simple as listing items that you would like to work on with an associated completion date. If working with a coach, the list would contain at least three pieces – What are you going to do, When are you going to do it, and How will you communicate to your coach you completed the action.

ACTION PLANNING to FOLLOW YOUR ROAD

TO DO When I will Do it How to communicate
1. Exercise 3 times a week Mon, Wed, Fri I will email my coach MWF
2. Oatmeal for bfast each morning M-F M, T,W, T, F Text a pic each morning to coach

Action plans require reflection on past personal practices and current life situations. Often times a negative health diagnosis, stress of a job, unexpected weight gain, or wanting to look good to attend a wedding will prompt a strong desire to change and setting an action plan will become your road map to wellness.

Action planning only works when actions happen and holding the coachee accountable to actions, timelines, and evidence of forward movement allows for success of personal goals. 

Follow Your Own Road and color the bricks whatever color you want – just “FOLLOW” your action plan with accountability and you will reach OZ.

“Good luck and while you are there tell the Wizard I said hello!

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Assessing Wellness

Daily choices affect many areas in a
person’s life and by understanding how one food choice may affect both diet and sleep or fitness or mindset or stress levels, a person can begin to make better choices.

By assessing where one is on the wellness continuum and which health dimensions are lacking, a coachee and coach create an action plan to practice thoughtful choices on their wellness journey.

Health dimensions include many pieces of a life: self-responsibility, intellect, physical fitness, nutrition, environment, spiritual, purpose, communication, occupation, financial, family, self-care, connections …, play. Many of these combine to make an action plan more manageable (e.g. physical fitness, nutrition and play become diet& exercise or family, communication, connections become relationships. Regardless of the dimensions, an assessment of those pieces is necessary in order to create new movement towards wellness.

Assessing Wellness

Health & Wellness coaches have many tools to help coachees assess their lives.  One tool is a Wheel of Life – a circle is divided into equal pie parts based on dimensions representing a coachee’s life and they rank their pieces from 1-10 (1 being low). 

Dimensions of WellnessColoring the pieces illustrates various levels of wellness for the coachee’s wellness pie.  The discrepancies in rankings for certain pieces, (e.g. physical – 9 but financial – 3, family -4  and play -10…) provides a glimpse of the bumps in life and becomes a conversation starter in deciding where to begin.  One may argue having a 5 for all pieces would represent a life without bumps, however, the goal is to constantly strive for a personal best in integrated health & wellness.

Wellness is not the absence of illness or disease, rather a way to focus living a lifestyle of improvement in every dimension.  Those with chronic disease, family strife, or environmental difficulties can move towards the positive end of well-being by assessing their wheel of life and enhancing pieces in small or big ways. 

Improving one health piece improves all other pieces.  If a goal is to build better family relationships, other outcomes result; such as personal growth, physical health, and possibly fun and recreation.

The pieces of life affect each other – assessing wellness can guide one in understanding where the wheel is in need of repair.

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Change Theories

Change theories inform people and organizations on how to break habits, addictions, patterns, and provide steps on how to elevate life, work, and play.  Some theories provide frameworks to follow, others provide probing questions to reflect on dimensions of a typical day, week, process, procedure, and some theories illustrate how change may not be a viable option at the present time.

Regardless of which theory is used a few baseline realities of change include: change is a process, change involves the individual and others related to the individual, change is personal, change involves developmental and behavioral growth, change is best understood in operational terms through anecdotal and evaluative measures, and successful change needs to be celebrated.

Taking Charge

One model used for implementing an innovation is the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (C-BAM) typically used in education and organizational settings.  This theory blends in 3 elements of a change: 1.)the innovation, 2.)people's attitudes and behaviors towards the innovation, and 3.)the level of use of the innovation.  Often change is quickly implemented without forethought of who it affects, the attitudes that may be surrounding the change, and how it will be evaluated over time - this model takes into account all of the variables up front and plans with the end in mind. 

Uncovering Gremlins

Personal or professional change involves others and it involves gremlins - those internal creatures who self-sabotage.  No matter where change is wanted; at work, home, or socially, gremlins will attend and reap havoc sometimes derailing any forward progress or worse stopping the change in its' tracks.  In Rick Carson's book "Taming Your Gremlin," the person or organization who wants to change begins the journey by simply breathing and noticing.  Noticing habits, assumptions, blocks, behaviors, and the gremlins associated to those areas.  The journey continues into becoming open and playing with options, visualizing, and strategies to meet the gremlins along the way. Carson ends the story suggesting the final steps are to be constantly in process (as all change is) to sustain change: breathe, take notice, play with options, while becoming adept in delivering a personal mantra which keeps your gremlin at rest.

Stepping Out or Not

 The Transtheoretical Model of Change , also known as Stages of Change provides a methodology that supports and understands the spiral process of intentional behavior change. The researchers (James Prochaska, John Norcross, Carlo DiClemente) who created the theory of change broke away from change as linear to change as an evolving spiral process.  The spiral did not always go in one direction, as the process could go backwards and then forwards or possibly backwards and stall.  The six (6) stages that make up the model include 1.) Pre-Contemplation, 2.) Contemplation, 3.) Preparation, 4.)Action, 5.) Maintenance, 6.) Termination.  The most noticeable first stage of pre-contemplation is where denial and no intention to change are evident.  If one gets to stage 2 of contemplation then an acknowledgment of the need for change has been stated but not necessarily any movement to prepare for change as in Stage 3.  People who have addictive behaviors, suffer from chronic illnesses, or who are not decision makers may go between stages 1 and 2 for a period of time until something triggers a desire to move forward.  Once preparation and action occur and change is perceived as helpful and successful the stages continue into the critical Stage of maintenance.  It is in this stage that a relapse can occur and a jumpstart of stages 3-5 must be revisited.  

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Health and Wellness

Understanding health and wellness is not an easy task.  Many if not most people read reports and hear suggestions or lectures about eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and being mindful so stress and anxiety do not build up inside.

Choose Wisely
Choose Wisely

The suggestions and lectures sometimes prompt one to seek out diets, exercise, or sleep programs, however, many people fall victim to these programs and continue making the same unhealthy choices and following self-defeating habits.  With all the literature, social media access, and programs available to improve one’s lifestyle – why is it so difficult to live a healthy life?

Defining Health and Wellness

Healthy people will tell you they feel pretty good, haven’t had a cold, and don’t have any aches and pains.  They say they are doing well.  However, those suffering from the flu, allergies, or an injury complain about every body part, need rest, and state they want to be healthy. Health and Wellness are bigger than getting over the common cold, flu, or a few body aches now and then.  They are two keywords representing lifestyle choices happening everyday.  Working definitions of health and wellness illustrate how lifestyle choices affect our lives.

According to the World Health Organization (1946)’s definition:

Health is – “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (WHO, 1946)

“The definition changed in 1984 toHealth is the extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment.  Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept, emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.”

Regardless of the “HEALTH” definition, the reality is in order to have a Quality of Life – actions supporting physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning are the keys to health and wellness.

Wellness  – “is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” (NWI, 2004)

The National Wellness Institute and many experts in the field of wellness have developed various models to explain the dimensions of wellness.  Some models describe up to 12 dimensions while all models highlight: physical, spiritual, nutrition, occupational, emotional, intellectual, and environmental as either leading dimensions or assumed under another dimension.

Living Health – Wellness

In order to live both healthy and well, the many dimensions of a person’s life must be assessed, understood, and then met with a meaningful action plan for Lifestyle Change.

Wellness affects everyone and every organization. There is no one-size fits all plan to become healthy and well, a lifestyle change requires intentional behavior change from the individual and a personal commitment to follow through on an action plan.

Wellness coaches assist each coachee in creating an action plan by assessing each person on  his or her dimensions of wellness as well as the readiness, willingness, and ableness levels of the coachee and prioritize first steps to create positive change. 

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