Category Archives: Work environment
Standing while working has become a way-of-work for some of the NewPublicHealth staff, and most report that after a brief breaking in-period the foot aches give way to a more alert, healthier-feeling workday. So we were amused, and delighted, to see this recent essay on the merits and drawbacks of standing versus sitting all day in PARADE magazine by author A.J. Jacobs. The excerpt is from Jacobs’ new book, Drop Dead Healthy.
>>Weigh in: Were you standing or sitting while you read this post? Which would you rather be doing?
More and more businesses and employers are taking action to improve the health of their employees and communities at large. Recently, we spoke with Jeff Johnson, President of Johnson Machine Works, Inc., and Joy Schiller, Director of Wellness at Des Moines University, about why their organizations have made wellness a priority, from the perspective of two very different businesses—one big, one small; one academic, one industrial. Both are members of the Wellness Council of Iowa, a group of business leaders committed to creating healthier workplaces for employees.
NewPublicHealth: Why did your organization join the wellness movement?
Joy Schiller: There’s a real recognition that we as a health sciences university should be kind of a role model for the rest of the state and the nation. I tremendously appreciate as a wellness director that one of our goals is to provide education to our students and opportunities for wellness so our students on a personal level can see the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When they go out as health care practitioners, they will be more apt to reinforce to their patients the importance of healthy lifestyle habits and how critical it is to quality of life and preventing chronic health problems.
Jeff Johnson: Our business is a steel fabrication business. We’ve got skilled welders, cutters and fitters, engineering types, detailers and project managers. It’s a real rough-and-tumble kind of a business.
NewPublicHealth reported yesterday on a Congressional briefing to launch a new report, Healthier Americans for a Healthier Economy. The report showcases several states and cities that have found that better health for their citizens can also improve their bottom line, often in partnership with businesses and other community partners. NewPublicHealth spoke with Tom Mason, president of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, and one of the presenters at yesterday's briefing about the group’s efforts and preliminary outcomes in Minnesota.
NewPublicHealth: When did the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota open for business?
Tom Mason: It began about two years ago. We started working with Target and Cargill and a couple of other early members about how to use competitions and information and entertainment to try to better engage employees regarding workplace wellness activities. Very sophisticated companies all are very aware of the return on investment at multiple levels regarding workplace wellness and prevention and overall well-being, but it’s not always easy to interest employees.
NPH: What background do you bring to the Alliance?
Employer and public health communities have a shared vision: better health and productivity for their employees and community members. Employers are now expanding their efforts from work site health promotion to community-wide health efforts, in partnership with public health and other community stakeholders, to ensure their employees and employees' families have access to an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice -- both during the work day and beyond.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Andrew Webber, President and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health, and Jeff Levi, Ph.D., Executive Director for Trust for America’s Health, about the critical role of employers in community prevention efforts.
NewPublicHealth: Workplace is a critical venue for improving health. But what makes it important to involve businesses in community health efforts outside their walls?
Andrew Webber: In terms of optics at the community level, it says that improving community health is not just the responsibility of the traditional public health community. It is too broad a challenge for that. For us to be successful, we need every stakeholder group involved in making contributions. Each one of us in the community has both a responsibility and can benefit from population health. This is an agenda that we all share.
For the business community, it selfishly comes down to workforce health and productivity as being a business imperative, a competitive asset – something that is critical to the success of a business organization. We’re hoping more businesses understand that the health of their workforce is impacted by community dynamics. Yes, an employer can do a lot in terms of worksite wellness and health promotion programs with the eight hours of the day that they have individuals at work. But if those individuals then go home to unhealthy communities, violent communities, poor public school systems, no parks and recreational facilities, that’s going to have a huge influence on workforce health. And also, obviously, a huge influence on the talented labor pool you can draw on today and tomorrow.
Jeff Levi: The healthier the community, the healthier the people and employees within that community. Employers should help employees make healthy choices and can do so by providing incentives and other rewards for fitness and good health. To make a lasting impact, these steps must be reinforced where people live and spend time with their families, friends and neighbors. Access to parks, bike paths, safe walking routes, healthy foods, etc. provide positive ways to complete wellness and health-related efforts initiated in the workplace.
And for small employers, community prevention is even more important. They may not be able to fully develop workplace wellness programs, but through community-based prevention they too can achieve cost savings and increased productivity for their employees.
NPH: What are some of the challenges in collaborating between public health and business? How do we overcome them?