July 30, 2010 — Staying active and healthy is a priority for the community at Northwestern Health Sciences University. “We’re a natural healthcare institution,” says Deborah Hogenson, SPHR, director of human resources. “Health and wellness are part of our mission.”
For the past five years, Northwestern employees have participated in a health risk assessment as part of the employee health and wellness programming. The assessment occurs at the beginning of each calendar year and is recommended for all employees on Northwestern’s health insurance plan.
Once the assessment is complete, employees are encouraged to participate in at least one of the online or phone coaching health programs offered by HealthPartners — Northwestern’s insurance provider. This qualifies employees to receive a discount of roughly $300 on their premiums for the next year.
The ultimate purpose of this assessment is to reduce health risks through identification and health and behavioral education. “Health and wellness education can hopefully help employees obtain a better quality of life,” said Hogenson. Northwestern is committed to continuing on the path of improving health risks.
In August of 2007, Northwestern received an Active Workplaces grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The Active Workplaces grant provides funding for small and mid-size employers to create programs or company policies to help increase employee physical activity during the work day. Other employers that also received this grant ranged from the City of Apple Valley to the Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis.
• The grant has four requirements that must be met in order to receive the funding:
• Involved assessment of the current environment;
• Development of a strategic plan for increasing physical activity;
• Implementation; and
• Development of a sustainability plan.
Currently, Northwestern is in the middle of step three, implementation. Since last year, the Mind, Body and Spirit Committee has been leading the development and implementation of health and wellness initiatives. Many initiatives were funded by the Blue Cross grant including:
•Workplace fitness kits for all employees;
• Fitness classes including Nia, Qigong, yoga and kickboxing;
• 10,000 steps program;
• The Back in Shape employee program;
• A variety of hands-on workplace fitness demonstrations; and
• Lawn game equipment (croquet, bocce ball) for employees to use at work.
The health assessment results for 2010 show an overall improvement in employee health risks. This year, 202 Northwestern employees were invited to take the assessment and 77.7 percent of those employees completed it. Some key findings:
• A 1.5 percent decrease in number of sedentary participants;
• A 1.27 percent decrease in overweight or obese participants from the previous year; and
• An area to improve for next year – 4.4 percent increase in participants that reported diabetes or heart disease.
Other findings include:
• Decrease in tobacco use;
• Decrease in unhealthy food choices;
• Decrease in unhealthy stress;
• Decrease in high risk alcohol use;
• Increase in physical activity; and
• Increase in frequent back pain.
“By assessing our health risks, we won’t have to battle as many health concerns in the future,” said Hogenson.
The final phase of the Blue Cross grant is developing and implementing a sustainability plan. Currently, the wellness committee is working on a physical activity policy that will ask the university to support healthy activities and events. The committee hopes to receive support in encouraging work schedules that allow for physical activity.
“A higher level of wellness leads to a higher level of job satisfaction,” says Hogenson.
Source: Northwestern Health Sciences University, www.nwhealth.edu/nwtoday/index.html