Health Links [HL]: Why is the health and safety of your employees important to you?
CDPHE: In order to best serve the people of Colorado, our employees need to perform at their best. Employees who are healthy and happy experience fewer injuries, recover from illness and injury more rapidly and are able to focus on their important work protecting the health and environment of all Coloradans. Our staff has a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience and retaining them is important for the integrity of the work of public health. When they do leave for retirement or their next passionate project, I believe that it is a fundamental role as an employer to provide a workplace environment and culture that supports their physical and mental well-being so they leave as healthy as when they arrived and are ready to take on their next challenges to the best of their abilities.
HL: What does your workplace health and safety program look like? Do you offer both components to employees?:
CDPHE: CDPHE Wellness offers a comprehensive wellness program that focuses on prevention, early detection, and management of chronic illness and disease. The Worksite Wellness Manager provides support for the program and guides program development, evaluation and improvement of CDPHE Wellness. CDPHE Wellness utilizes multiple approaches to provide a workplace that is conducive to optimal health and well being, including environmental (bike racks, bike lockers, showers, lockers, walking paths, wellness room, Weigh and Win Kiosk, bicycle library, blood pressure cuffs, water filling stations), policy (wellness break policy, parental and volunteer leave, tobacco-free workplace), benefits (Diabetes Prevention Program, Weight Watchers at Work, State of Slim, online health risk assessment, online health coaching, employee assistance program), programs (mindfulness meditation, CPR/First Aid, yoga, personal training, caregiver support group,self-monitoring of blood pressure) education (Mental Health First Aid, bike safety and commuting tips, Alzheimer's Education Series, Hands Only CPR), and community (Employee Resource Groups, Bike to Work Month, GoTober). We work with a passionate network of internal public health experts, volunteers, nonprofit organizations and other state agencies to provide robust health and safety programs.
Our Wellness Advisory Board uses several subcommittees with focus areas that include mental health and mental illness, alternative transportation, physical activity, healthy eating, breastfeeding, diabetes prevention, cancer prevention, tobacco control and prevention, cardiovascular disease prevention, weight management, aging, caregiver support and family friendly workplace. The safety program is operated by our operations division and uses division representatives who function as a Safety Committee and guide emergency preparedness, including active shooter training, CPR/First Aid and safety policy. CDPHE Wellness includes members of the safety committee and collaborates on education events, including Hands Only CPR Training.
HL: How will you/do you know your program is successful?
CDPHE: Effective implementation of the CDPHE Wellness is evaluated on an ongoing basis in multiple dimensions. CDPHE Wellness conducts a wellness survey that evaluates program components and overall well being of our employees. Employee participation in various aspects of the wellness program are measured regularly and feedback from employees is utilized to guide the program. Health outcomes are measured for specific program interventions, including lifestyle modification and mental health interventions. The success of CDPHE Wellness is noted through the variety of environmental, policy, benefits and programs used by employees.
HL: What obstacles did you have to overcome to get your program started? How did you overcome them?
CDPHE: CDPHE Wellness has overcome multiple challenges since the initial inception of the program in the late 1990's. Various champions have led the program to establish onsite lactation rooms and bicycle lockers. Program continuity and support was established in policy in 2012 with the "Wellness Policy" passed with the support of the Executive Director. This corresponded to the creation of the Worksite Wellness Manager position with specific responsibility for the management of the wellness program. Passage of the Tobacco-Free Workplace Policy protects all employees and visitors from exposure to secondhand smoke and supports tobacco users wanting to quit. CDPHE Wellness and our chronic disease staff provided guidance and recommendations to the Governor and human resource department to establish the State Employee Wellness Program and evidence-based interventions such as the Diabetes Prevention Program. The majority of these "wins" came with support of our expert public health staff and support from executive leadership.
Continued challenges include limited dedicated staff support and funding for public health programs. This has been overcome through the use of teams or committees that use evidence based models for interventions, volunteer support, use of nonprofit partners and/or state agency/benefit resources. This approach will allow CDPHE Wellness to continue to offer a variety of interventions with limited ongoing budget for internal programs.
HL: Does your health and safety program help give back to your community?
CDPHE: CDPHE has a number of outreach and engagement efforts for the community. This includes the efforts of our employee resource groups and outreach to communities across Colorado. At our main campus location in Glendale, CDPHE Wellness and our Green Team work closely with the City of Glendale and surrounding employers throughout the year to support community wide initiatives. This goes beyond our public health mission and includes active collaboration for the Cherry Creek Clean Up, Bike to Work Month and GoTober.
HL: What tip/advice would you give to a business that is considering starting a workplace health and safety program?
CDPHE: Wellness and safety programs do not require a lot of money. Many interventions with the most impact are very low cost or free, e.g., tobacco-free workplace, providing water rather than soda, letting employees off for preventive care visits, injury prevention/ergonomics, etc. It is worthwhile spending a little time to investigate the resources and guidance available for you to begin your wellness program. Many resources are offered free of charge, e.g., Total Worker Health, CDC Workplace Health Promotion, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society. Make sure you have a commitment from leadership to start your program and then establish policies that will endure regardless of who is in charge, staff changes, or shifting priorities. Consider the whole person and how the work environment and culture impact employee health and well being. Finally, notice what you are doing well (keep doing that), notice what you need to improve (make changes), and what do you need to start (plan for how you will get there). And have fun!