Worksite Wellness and Local Public Health - It Works!
What do eighty two worksites in District Health Department # 10’s counties all have in common? Many are using the Live Well program to create workplaces that make it easier for employees to eat healthy, be physically active, and live tobacco-free. Live Well is part of the Michigan 4 x 4 Health and Wellness Plan and the MI Healthier Tomorrow Campaign. District Health Department # 10 is one of six grantees to receive this funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Live Well is a campaign to support healthy lifestyles through obesity prevention programming, with worksite health as one of the focus areas. Adults spend about half their waking hours at work, so helping worksites create healthier places for employees provides a large number of adults in our counties with ways to live a healthier life. The health department offers support to worksites in two different ways:
Expert guidance on worksite wellness programming and/or
An invitation to participate in local corporate wellness challenges and subscribe to local worksite wellness newsletters
Expert guidance: The key to a healthy worksite is having policies and practices in place that have been proven to make a difference in employee health, which help to create a work environment that makes it easier for people to make the healthy choice. Worksites that choose the expert guidance option begin with a full assessment using the Designing Healthy Environments at Work survey. It is a free, online tool available to any Michigan worksite. The assessment asks a series of questions about the types of policy, systems, and environmental activities the worksite has that make it easier for employees to choose to be physically active, eat healthy, and live tobacco-free. The worksite then receives a tailored feedback report showing what health-promoting actions they already have in place, and what proven actions they could target as a next step to creating a healthier worksite. Health department staff helps the worksite create an action plan tailored to their current needs, employee interests, and budget.
Participating worksites may also join a quarterly networking group for building relationships and sharing experiences with other local businesses that are working to improve their healthy work policies and practices. Participating staff from area businesses give and receive support to each other and receive education on topics such as the nationally implemented Work@Health program. District Health Department # 10 is fortunate to have a Work@Health certified trainer on their staff to share the latest in policy, systems, and environmental practices that works to improve employee health.
The changes made by local worksites have been impressive. Notable changes include smoothie bars, panini makers, water coolers, community garden plots, on site exercise equipment, healthier snacks, healthy meeting policies, and policies to support breastfeeding. These changes represent equipment and conditions that allow employees to make a healthy choice during their workday. This year, worksites are receiving extra expert guidance and incentive to implement food related policies which may include purchasing policies, healthy snack/vending policies, healthy meeting policies, and/or breastfeeding policies. One of those sites in the program is 44North based in Cadillac. As part of the Live Well Program, 44North has implemented a healthy food policy for all worksite meetings and events.
Corporate wellness challenges and newsletter: Worksites who are not in the full program have also implemented the Live Well campaign at their worksites by receiving worksite wellness challenges and newsletters from the health department. 70% of community Live Well walking challenge participants came from local worksites. Recently, worksites completed a “Golden Shoe” Corporate Wellness challenge. Fifty-eight worksites in ten counties completed the challenge. The worksite with the most physical activity per total number of employees was declared a winner in each of the ten counties. Bonus points were given if employees complete a 5k or similar type of event, such as MI Big Green Events or other Live Well events that were promoted to worksites through targeted marketing, email distribution lists, and referral to Live Well’s website and Facebook page. Wellness challenges have been a great tool to recruit new worksites into worksite wellness. The words “worksite wellness” can be scary for worksites, especially those with limited resources. Wellness challenges have been a great way to introduce what wellness programming can do for their employees. It also provides resources to employees that may not have otherwise been created due to time, money, or staff health and wellness knowledge.
As the number of worksites with wellness programs grows, the recruitment has become easier with strengthened relationships and culture of health being established in the local business community. Recruitment was very difficult at first as many businesses may not have viewed the health department as someone to partner with for health promotion programming. Health department staff now use a growing list of worksite success stories to recruit potential worksites. They educate worksites on the benefits of giving their employees the opportunity to be healthy at work, and how it will benefit not only the organization’s bottom line but also the employee’s health, productivity, & morale. 82 worksites making 49 healthy changes, reaching 8,392 employees so far, and still going strong! For more information about this effort, please contact Sally Mellema, Health Education Supervisor at 231-355-7529, or email at Sally at email@example.com.