Wellness Coordinators – Let’s Do Both Worksite Wellness and Employee Health Status Improvement

Many employers today are launching worksite wellness programs. But are these efforts truly wellness programs? Read on to see why they may not be.

Within worksite wellness, I too often think we view issues as being either/or, rather than being inclusive. Most worksite wellness programs today are not about wellness at all, but rather improving the health status of individual employees. While our attention is focused on employee health status, this does not mean we can’t also start to deliver wellness type programming and interventions as well.

So what is the difference?

While there are a number of wellness definitions available to consider, I will use the definition and model put forth by the National Wellness Institute (NWI). NWI defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.” The NWI model of wellness consists of six, interconnected dimensions:

• Physical

• Social

• Intellectual

• Spiritual

• Emotional

• Occupational

Like wellness, health is often described as being a multi-dimensional concept. Health is generally measured in terms of:

• Physical conditions such as pain, disability or condition likely to cause death

• Emotional conditions

• Social functioning

Health status is a snapshot of health at any one particular point-in-time. Health status can be measured at both the individual and population levels. Individual health status can be measured objectively through:

• The presence or absence of illness

• The presence or absence of risk factors

• The severity of any diseases present

• Overall perception of health

In the workplace, employee health status is generally measured through the use of health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

As best as I can determine, there is no absolute measure of health status. And because the measure of health status also includes overall perception of health, health status is also somewhat subjective.

By comparing the above definitions with the way worksite wellness is being practiced today, we can clearly see that what is being called wellness today is not really wellness, but really employee health status improvement (EHSI). So from my perspective, let’s stop calling what we do today worksite wellness and call it employee health status improvement or employee health improvement instead. Instead of creating phony worksite wellness programs, let’s instead focus on creating solid, effective EHSI programs instead.

Given today’s worksite wellness program focus almost exclusively on physical health, many of the concepts and practices already in place can be readily applied in the EHSI program model. Since health status is a function of disease states, risk factors and overall health perception, let’s focus the attention of EHSI programs on risk reduction, chronic disease management, medical self-care and helping employees to better perceive and act on their health status.

Since we are not faced with an either/or situation here, let’s also start to do wellness programs at the same time we are doing EHSI programs. EHSI programs will never equate to wellness because they are not designed to. At their best, EHSI programs are designed to avoid health problems. Prevention or avoidance alone will never yield wellness. Creating wellness requires the taking of deliberate actions to move beyond the point of prevention or no health risks. Prevention and avoidance are based on the pathogenesis model which will not, by itself, ever create wellness.

Recall the definition of wellness. Wellness is about creating opportunities for “a more successful existence.” Wellness is a process where employee health status is a static snapshot at one specific point-in-time. Wellness is closely aligned with the concept of salutogenesis, or the creation of opportunities for health.

Given that wellness is multi-dimensional, here are my present thoughts about what constitute wellness type programming in the workplace for each of the wellness dimensions:

• Physical – This domain will be covered by the EHSI program

• Social – Creating positive, supportive, employee first or employee centric organizational cultures and workplace climates; random acts of kindness; employee volunteer programs

• Intellectual – Brain health and fitness

• Spiritual – Helping employees find meaning and purpose in both work and life

• Emotional – Workplace mental health promotion; stress management; building resilience

• Occupational – Integration with employee safety; integration with employee training and development

I believe pathogenesis and salutogenesis represent different segments of the health – wellness continuum and can successfully co-exist by building off each other’s core principles. Employers can and should deliver both EHSI and worksite wellness programs.

Doing Both

Prevention and risk reduction will never result in wellness. I invite y

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Determining the Health Needs of Men: Promoting Men As Health Heroes

Increased health and wellbeing into the senior years

Generally amongst populations of different countries, men have a lower life expectancy than women. With a lot of discussion in many political arenas of increasing the age of retirement, it is becoming increasingly necessary for men to take charge of improving their health. Quality of life, and increased functionality and mobility should be normal as men age, not a slow decline of health. Men can do much to be a health hero, and increase their potential for increased physical strength, functionality and mobility and healthy mental faculties well into their senior years.

Health Heroes have Health Checks

Primary or preventive health for men helps them become aware of what they need to do in order to reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease as they get older. A visit to the local general practitioner for an annual or bi-annual health screening check will help ensure that the man will be aware of all his vital statistics. These include blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, heart health, liver health, lung health, digestive system health, cancer free status and levels of nutrients in the blood. The GP can also discuss mental health, and how his reproductive organs and sexual wellbeing are going.

Men and Mental Health

A lot of men are unsure of how to approach mental health with their doctor or health practitioner. They are more likely to describe symptoms of depression such as lethargy and tiredness, and lack of motivation, rather than using diagnostic terms such as “depression.” There is much being done to alleviate the stigma attached to mental illness, and the promotion of mental health and the importance it has attached to the rest of the health of the body is being emphasized among various international health promotion campaigns. Men in rural areas, and remote areas are particularly vulnerable to symptoms such as depression and anxiety, and they have concern as to how they can provide for their families if they are working in rural environments. Many countries have specialist telephone counseling services for men, and it is extremely important for men to access these telephone counseling services should they have any concerns about themselves, their families or their jobs. If men have been feeling unusually tired and unmotivated, it is important to talk to the doctor about it, and the doctor will keep everything completely confidential. Treatment for symptoms of lethargy may include medicine prescriptions, however there are other options such as counseling, and lifestyle modification including playing more social sport, and eating more fruit and vegetables. Tiredness and lethargy can be an indicator of a low level of iron stores or some other health issue, so it is important to undergo health screening to help restore health and wellbeing.

General Health and Wellbeing

A general healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy diet, six to nine hours sleep per night, abstinence from daily tobacco use, no more than two alcoholic drinks per day and several days per week without alcohol, and regular exercise of at least 150 minutes over 5 sessions per week will significantly reduce the risk factors for men developing health problems. Primary and preventive care makes men responsible for choosing healthy behaviors, and encouraging these healthy activities among their friends. Healthy male friendships include sports teams and social clubs from work. There are usually men’s shed type activities attached in some communities to church organizations. They cater specifically to men’s interests. It is important to have interests and hobbies outside the home, to promote health and mental wellbeing. A man does not have to be a gym junkie to be healthy, but a generally healthy lifestyle will help him perform well in all areas including in enjoying his sex life.

Men and Sexual Health

When a man is healthy and his cardiovascular system is working properly, he will have no difficulty in getting and maintaining an erection. He should also have no trouble urinating in a strong stream. If a man has any issues or concerns about his sex life, including maintaining an erection, or difficulty urinating, he can discuss these problems confidentially with his doctor in order to help regain his confidence in the bedroom. Sex in a healthy committed relationship has been shown to be ideal for optimum mental wellbeing, and a man should also practice safe sex with his sex partners. Any discussion of these issues can be discussed confidentially with a doctor.

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