Winnable Battles Over Employee Health Can Start in the Office

Employers sometimes forget how big a role they play in the lives of their employees. Well, let us remind you — it’s huge.

According to the National Business Group on Health, 75 percent of employees reported in October 2010 that they used their employers as a resource for medical and health information, a significant jump from 54 percent in 2007.

So when the Center for Disease Control picked seven public health priorities it called “Winnable Battles,” we saw it as a great opportunity to have a positive impact on your employees and their families. The seven priorities have large-scale impacts on health, but also have known, effective strategies to address them.

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We know how much you’ve invested in your wellness strategies. But do your employees? These are health issues that many of them face. And what they probably don’t know is that you have the resources to help them focus on changing their lives.

It’s the small things that employers do to support their employees that really let them know they care. You may not have a program in place to address all of these issues, but you can direct people to the right resources. Or, sometimes something as simple as putting up a poster really shows you’re thinking about their well-being.

Reducing tobacco use

  • Promote your smoking cessation programs. If you do not have one, give your employees tobacco cessation handouts or provide posters.
  • Provide incentives to quit smoking. More and more companies are recognizing the value and rewards of using financial incentives to help employees live healthier lives, according an an annual wellness study by the National Business Group on Health.
  • If you don’t have smoking cessation programs, refer your employees to the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association who have proven programs and resources to help.

Nutrition, physical activity and obesity

  • Promote your health risk questionnaire, which often gives an employee a snapshot of their overall health. Often times, medical carriers provide coaching on nutrition and how to make small changes in their overall nutrition activity level
  • Educate your employees about the preventive care that’s available to them. This could include a biometric screening, which checks your Body Mass Index, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other indicators of your overall health
  • Start a weight management program or encourage their participation. Get in touch with Weight Watchers, which can provide corporate discounts.
  • If you have an on site cafeteria, think about providing healthy options including nuts and fruit.
  • Support a healthy recipe exchange program between coworkers. Make it fun for employees.
  • Challenge your employees to take 10,000 steps a day, and provide them with a pedometer so they can track it.
  • Negotiate discounts with local gyms.
  • Give back to your community and get your employees active. Have your employees participate in local charity walks or 5k run. You’ll encourage not only camaraderie but physical activity.

Food safety

  • Remind employees to wash their hands when preparing meals.
  • Remind employees not to leave food out that can spoil easily.
  • Provide a refrigerator or a place where employees can keep their foods at a safe temperature.
  • Everyone loves a candy jar. But encourage individually wrapped candy versus M&M’s. This decreases the chance of spreading germs.

Health care-associated infections

  • Promote your health line. Many companies provide 24/7 toll-free telephone access to a registered nurse. Your employees can call anytime to find out if their situation truly warrants an emergency room visit, if they can treat it at home and what to ask at their next doctor visit.
  • Keep them out of health facilities by keeping them healthy. Set up a special day with a local drug store that can provide flu shots just for employees. The flu can be very dangerous and lead to hospitalization.
  • Educate employees about how to have frank conversations with their doctors and health care providers and about the level of care they should expect from their doctors and while in the hospital.

Motor vehicle injuries

  • Your warehouse distributors are sometimes the most at risk to occupational hazards. It’s important they know where to go to find resources on safety. This wellness site has great information for workplace safety.
  • Have a policy for no cell phone or texting while driving.
  • Revisit your alcohol policies for employees who are on company time, whether they are on-site or traveling for business.
  • Arrange for a local insurance company to host an easy course on driving safely.

Teen pregnancy

  • Text4baby, launched in February 2010, has given pregnant women a free tool to cut through the noise and receive information that matters to them and their baby at the time that it matters most. Read more about the program and promote it to all young mothers.

Free resources

Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at jen@benzcommunications.com.

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