Writ­ten by Frank Tucker

I’m an Occu­pa­tional Health and Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine Physi­cian Assis­tant by trade. I still see patients on a vol­un­teer basis. A cen­ter­piece in my approach is well­ness and improved health out­comes. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, I really try to imple­ment prac­tices that enable peo­ple to increase con­trol over their health­care in order to improve their health. A key com­po­nent of health pro­mo­tion has been edu­ca­tion and empow­er­ment. Cer­tainly tra­di­tional activ­i­ties like health fairs, health edu­ca­tion, med­ical screen­ing, well­ness newslet­ters, tobacco ces­sa­tion and weight man­age­ment pro­grams to name a few have been a sta­ple of my approach. In the Army we had a cap­tive audi­ence, which made it much eas­ier to carry out these well­ness ini­tia­tives. In the civil­ian work place it has been more of a chal­lenge, so we have to re-​think our approach in order to be cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive and appro­pri­ate to eco­nom­i­cally chal­lenged minori­ties and other under­served populations.

At Micro­Health we have some amaz­ing offer­ings that pro­mote health and well­ness, such as flex time for exer­cise, on-​site gym, on-​site eat­ing areas and active lifestyle pro­mo­tion with pro­grams such as the Vir­tual Walk to San Fran­cisco chal­lenge. How­ever, it is sim­ply not enough to cre­ate a cul­ture of health within the organization. Our Chief Med­ical Infor­ma­tion Offi­cer is tak­ing on the daunt­ing chal­lenge of build­ing acul­ture of well­ness within the orga­ni­za­tion to keep Micro­Healthers fit and healthy. It doesn’t mean hav­ing a “beach body”. It does mean help­ing our employ­ees achieve a work-​life bal­ance while liv­ing health­ier and hap­pier lives. . This means tak­ing a holis­tic approach to fight­ing some of the most com­mon health chal­lenges such as obe­sity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, cho­les­terol, dia­betes, stroke, can­cer, depres­sion and much more. Many of our employ­ees are dis­abled vet­er­ans and war vet­er­ans so we must also cus­tomize our pro­gram to address issues spe­cific to this population.

While some com­pa­nies have taken Cor­po­rate Well­ness to extremes focused on sim­ply mon­e­tary out­comes, we believe in cost sharing…not cost shift­ing. Some com­pa­nies have taken dras­tic mea­sures by vary­ing the amount paid for employ­ees for health insur­ance in an effort to incen­tivize health. True, the result of suc­cess­ful well­ness strate­gies shows that a com­pre­hen­sive cor­po­rate well­ness pro­gram can return $3 – 6 for every dol­lar invested. How­ever, we believe that neg­a­tive types of incen­tives actu­ally cre­ate bar­ri­ers to health pre­ven­tion and treat­ment in the long run and are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to bet­ter health out­comes. Bet­ter health out­comes can be achieved through reward and part­ner­ship rather than a puni­tive approach. The Micro­Health Cor­po­rate Well­ness Pro­gram will include 7 major inter­ven­tion and pre­ven­tion strate­gies from Healthy Peo­ple 2010:

  • Health edu­ca­tion, which focuses on skill devel­op­ment and lifestyle behav­ior change along with infor­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion and aware­ness build­ing, prefer­ably tai­lored to employ­ees’ inter­ests and needs.
  • Sup­port­ive social and phys­i­cal envi­ron­ments. These include an organization’s expec­ta­tions regard­ing healthy behav­iors, and imple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies that pro­mote health and reduce risk of disease.
  • Inte­gra­tion of the work­site pro­gram into orga­ni­za­tional structure.
  • Link­age to related pro­grams like Employee Assis­tance Pro­grams (EAPs) and pro­grams to help employ­ees bal­ance work and family.
  • Work­site screen­ing pro­grams ide­ally linked to med­ical care to ensure follow-​up and appro­pri­ate treat­ment as necessary.
  • Sup­port for indi­vid­ual behav­ior change with follow-​up interventions.
  • Eval­u­a­tion and improve­ment processes to help enhance the program’s effec­tive­ness and efficiency.

Sim­ply put, we want to make healthy choices eas­ier for Micro­Healthers. What also sep­a­rates our pro­gram from the typ­i­cal approach is sim­plic­ity and FUN. Chal­lenges like the Vir­tual Walk to San Fran­cisco cre­ated an increased level of aware­ness in activ­i­ties. We quickly saw peo­ple mak­ing small changes in their daily lives to walk more. While some have increased their exer­cise rou­tine, oth­ers parked their cars far­ther and took steps rather than ele­va­tors. Peo­ple were amazed how many miles can quickly accu­mu­late by just mak­ing small changes that resulted in greater lev­els of activity. The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion con­sid­ers the work place as one of “the pri­or­ity set­tings for health pro­mo­tion into the 21st cen­tury” because it influ­ences “phys­i­cal, men­tal, eco­nomic and social well-​being” and “offers an ideal set­ting and infra­struc­ture to sup­port the pro­mo­tion of health of a large audi­ence.” We hope to see the last­ing effects of a num­ber of eas­ily adopt­able pos­i­tive changes from our Cor­po­rate Well­ness Pro­gram result in bet­ter health for our team.