The Importance of Worksite Wellness Programs

By Hannah Parrish

Beat the heatThis summer, I planned, implemented, and evaluated a five-week worksite wellness program called BEAT THE HEAT for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District (WMCPHD). I am graduating from Baylor University this August with my bachelor’s degree in Public Health. As a part of my summer internship, I was given the opportunity to connect my studies to public health practice. My experience with BEAT THE HEAT has allowed me to grow in my understanding of public health in many ways, but it has specifically taught me the importance of worksite wellness programs.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), worksite wellness programs can help “maintain and improve the health of employees,” and they can also reduce the employees’ risk of developing “costly chronic diseases” (WH 101 Resource Manual). According to the Worksite Health 101 Resource Manual developed in partnership by Viridian Health Management LLC and the CDC in 2016, a healthier workforce can lead to “lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims,” and it can also “positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity” (WH 101 Resource Manual).

The worksite wellness program, BEAT THE HEAT, was designed with the mission to equip the employees of the WMCPHD with the tools and resources necessary to promote total wellness in their daily lives. On a broader scale, BEAT THE HEAT offered accountability, motivation, and education to the staff of the WMCPHD in an effort to instill long-term practices of wellness. BEAT THE HEAT carried out these missions through a period of five-weeks, and the program included motivational, educational, and accountability components. The program allowed the employees of the WMCPHD to focus on several dimensions of wellness, and encouraged them to make daily choices that would “add up.” The employees were provided weekly activity logs, and each activity focused on a different dimension of wellness. A certain number of points were designated to each activity on the log, and the activity logs changed week to week. By the end of the five-week program, the top five individuals with the most points earned chose their prizes.

I partnered with local businesses, The Mix Café, Oh My Juice!, and D1 Sports Training, to ensure that nutritionally and physically healthy prizes were offered to program participants as incentives. BEAT THE HEAT was marketed through the use of informational and motivational flyers, which were administered to the staff of the WMCPHD to generate interest. About half of the WMCPHD participated in the program, which doubled my initial goal of reaching twenty participants. Here’s what a few participants had to say about the program:

“This program encouraged me to add different wellness activities into my daily health regimen…activities that I would not normally participate in on my own.” – Janet Jones

“I have definitely gained a lot from the past 5 weeks, even though I consider myself a pretty healthy person to begin with.  This program has been great because everyone can gain something from it. BEAT THE HEAT made me more intentional about some aspects of wellness that often get overlooked, such as getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Knowing that you’re going to have to submit your points at the end of the week is a great motivator.  I would start trying to talk myself out of a workout and then remember – I need those points!” – Katy Stone 

My experience with the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program has taught me the importance of planning, implementing, and evaluating wellness programs in every workplace. I learned that wellness is only truly achieved when every dimension is viewed as an impacting factor. In 2015, about 70% of employers in the United States offered a “general wellness program” in their workplace (Forbes). While this estimation is higher than I predicted, there is always room for growth in the areas of specificity and goals of these programs. Does your worksite incorporate a monthly, quarterly, or yearly wellness program? If not, now is the time to start. Many worksites have a wellness coordinator to create wellness programs for employees. If you are interested in some ideas for wellness programs, the DSHS has compiled a list here. Many worksite wellness programs focus on physical and nutritional wellness; I decided to include every dimension of wellness in BEAT THE HEAT because every factor is important and contributes to our total wellness.

Finally, through my experience, I learned that creativity is key, and each person is different in their interests; these realizations made for a diverse program. I thoroughly enjoyed planning, implementing, and evaluating the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District!

Hannah ParishHannah Parrish moved to Waco in August 2013 to attend Baylor University. She received her degree in Public Health from Baylor in three years, and had the opportunity to intern at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District during her final summer in Waco. She loves traveling, fitness, community, coffee, and reading. She hopes to spend the next year teaching English overseas, and subsequently attend nursing school.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

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