What does being a healthy business mean to your organization? How does it reflect the company’s values and business goals? Our agency mission is to promote, protect and improve the lifelong health of the individuals and communities that we serve. By incorporating a wellness component internally, employees have a positive impact in the community through performing at the highest level in their work and also leading by example.
Tri-County advocates for a comprehensive approach to health and wellness which encompasses not only physical health but also social, spiritual, environmental, emotional and intellectual health. We project this through a variety of educational campaigns, challenges, and special events. Through these efforts, we combine safety and health education whenever possible. Our wellness coordinator sits on the safety team and our safety coordinator sits on the wellness team. Our employee wellness newsletter contains a regular safety column and, the safety manager incorporates wellness program announcements into her monthly safety announcements at each of our office locations.
We are fortunate to have many health experts and programs at Tri-County that we can leverage both internally and externally (see question 4 below). An example of leveraging these resources internally was demonstrated in a presentation that our nursing team did for staff on how to talk about sex with your teenagers. Participants reported that it was an eye-opening experience for them. Our immunization nurses also provide staff with the opportunity to get on-site flu vaccines each year. Tri-County’s Registered Dietitians are a valuable asset to internal and external programming efforts as well.
How has Health Links helped Tri County Health Department build a culture of health and safety? In addition to their healthy business and Family-Friendly assessment tools, Health Links provides phenomenal educational and networking opportunities. It’s great to learn from others via the webinars and in-person events which bring local employers together for exchanging ideas and best practices and also provide inspiration for what’s possible in a successful program.
Health Links has also been an invaluable partner in our external work with local employers since 2013. As part of a state-funded initiative, Tri-County works closely with Health Links to support employers through the healthy business certification process. Health Links also provides Tri-County with semi-annual aggregate employer assessment reports. And, we have had many opportunities to partner on conducting webinars and presentations for employers.
What changes have you seen among your employees, their families, and the surrounding community as a result of your program(s)? As our culture shifts to be more inclusive of wellness, healthy behaviors have become the norm instead of the outlier. We have also found that employees are more open to incorporating wellness-related activities because they feel both supported and encouraged to do so. You know things are going in the right direction when someone from within the agency has an idea for a wellness-related event and brings it to fruition independently, and this is beginning to happen more often. One of our sites even utilized our application for wellness funding to bring in a canvas-painting class as a way to build morale and provide a team bonding experience after a team member experienced some health issues.
Does your health and safety program help give back to your community?
As a health department the majority of our work is about giving back to the community. Additionally, we have been able to leverage our community resources to address the needs of local employers. For example, through health fairs and other worksite-based educational opportunities, we promote both WIC and immunization programs at workplaces whose employees may qualify for these services. Some of our community programs can be leveraged to serve multiple sub-populations, as is the case with the Diabetes Prevention Program. Under a separate stream of funding, we have been able to offer the Diabetes Prevention Program at three of our offices. Participants in these classes represent three populations; community members, Tri-County staff, and employees from nearby worksites.
What tip/advice would you give to a business that is considering starting a workplace health and safety program? Try not to get overwhelmed by the thought of a large, expensive and overly time-intensive program and instead work with what you already have in place, along with building a supportive culture. Know that it might take time to see things progress, but that every little bit helps. I would also recommend initiating some sort of multidisciplinary team (“champions” from the staff level along with middle and upper management if possible) so you can get a variety of perspectives and communicate through them to different segments of your employee population. Finally, take the Health Links assessment early on in the game to provide you with valuable baseline data.