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Wellness Coordinators: Approach Employee Health Holistically (You Can't Afford Not To!)

There are actually multiple determinants to health. And you do want to address as many as you can through your work site wellness program, correct?

Essentially, in the workplace setting, employee health is determined as a function of individual practices, organizational practices and the greater community in which the organization resides. In order to approach employee health holistically then, the workplace wellness program must address these three levels.

Individual Health Determinants

Researchers estimate that individual determinants of health account for up to an estimated 40% of how healthy an individual is. At the individual level, biology, genetics, age and gender all impact individual health. Researchers estimate that these physiological determinants of health account for approximately 10% of how healthy an individual is.

Researchers have also found that an individual's experiences in childhood impact how healthy they are in adulthood. Experiencing conflict in childhood adversely influences how healthy they are in adulthood.

Individual lifestyle factors, personal health practices and coping skills also play a significant role in how healthy an individual is. Researchers estimate that these could account for up to 40% of how healthy an individual is.

The traditional approach to worksite wellness has typically focused on individual health and lifestyle factors and personal health practices in particular. Get more info chiropractic


Corporation Determinants of Health

Researchers have clearly established that a person's health is also determined by social and economic factors, as well as individual factors. These are commonly classified as the social determinants of health. Research has estimated that the social determinants of health account for between 15 - 40% of how healthy the individual is.

Management practices in the workplace contribute significantly to employee health and wellbeing. Management practices may well either contribute to or detract from employee health and wellbeing.

The work environment clearly influences and impacts the health and psychosocial wellbeing of employees. There is extensive evidence on the connection between the workplace and employee health and wellbeing. Many workplace conditions profoundly influence employee behavior, health and wellbeing.

If the workplace is unhealthy, why would we ever expect employees to be healthy? It is for this reason that effective, successful 21st millennium worksite wellness programs focus just as much on organizational health, as they do individual employee health.

Community Determinants of Health

Employees and employers do not exist in isolation. Both are influenced by the community in which they live, work, play and operate. Typical community determinants of health include the physical environment (air quality, water quality, sanitation, etc . ), the social environment and the ethnic environment. Included in the environment is access to healthcare and social services.

While healthy employees are good for an employer, healthy work places are good for the community. Being seen as a great place to work is good for the employer, but also good for the community. The more great places to work there are in the community, the healthier the community will be.

Through corporate social responsibility type initiatives, employers are also contributing to the health of the community.

Worksite health and fitness in the 21st century is more than just a focus on the health status of employees. Worksite wellness encompasses programming and interventions at the organizational and community levels as well.

County Health Department - A Great Resource for Physician Groups and Hospitals

Since clinical providers seek ways to improve the health of their patients at the population level, one great resource that they should tap is their county health department. There are many resources and skills that health departments will share with physicians and other providers that will improve their ability to improve the health of their patients.

In my work I have had numerous occasions to collaborate with the chief epidemiologist of the Kent State Health Department of Michigan-Mr. Brian Hartl. Through these contacts and through an introductory epidemiology course I have found that health departments are experts at providing population level health services. This is in contrast to most clinical providers who excel at working with their patients on a face-to-face level. Both staff of physician offices and staff of health departments are concerned with the health of individuals and groups of most people.

Clinicians most often work with individuals during face-to-face encounters. They treat the disease or injury of an individual one at a time. For instance, if a physician is treating a patient with hypertension, she will plan a course of treatment with the individual in mind. If the physician considers the population level in her work, then she is looking at how the treatments and instructions that she provides affect a group of her patients. For instance, she may well consider how effective she is in treating her patients with hypertension collectively.

The patients of a county health department are the population of the county. Only in a few instances do health departments treat individuals one at a time. Much of their work would not be considered clinical interventions. However , their work does affect the population as a whole. For instance, health departments are responsible for seeing that food at restaurants is handled together with cooked correctly. Health departments track reports of communicable disease to identify potential clusters or outbreaks, such as measles, in order to mobilize the community and physician groups to respond and prevent further transmission.

Can these two health groups benefit each other in improving the health of their patients and, if so, how? I recently interviewed Brian Hartl about this and he shared some thoughts that I believe can help clinical service providers do a better job. As an expert in population level health, Mr. Hartl sees much of his work as preventive in nature. In the emerging world of population level medicine it is important for physicians and other clinical staff to focus on prevention too-prevention of chronic diseases worsening for patients, such as prevention of patients diagnosed with prediabetes advancing to diabetes, and prevention of teen patients from misusing alcohol and other drugs, including tobacco. The Kent County Health Department has many resources that can help physicians achieve their goal and would be very willing to collaborate with clinical groups. In fact , KCHD currently has a grant whose funds can be used to improve patient opportunities for chronic disease prevention, risk reduction or management through clinical and community linkages.

Mr. Hartl believes there is potential to figure together with physicians to establish a system for prescribing healthy living activities and lifestyles as nonclinical interventions for the prevention/management of chronic disease. For instance, the Kent County Health Department is actively engaged in helping communities develop walking paths in underserved areas in the City of Grand Rapids. He thinks that patients with chronic diseases can greatly benefit if they became more active just by walking. He is willing to share maps and information about the location of such paths so that a physician can prescribe a walking agenda for a patient and then point them to nearby paths that they can easily access.

The Kent County Health Department is also engaged in working with community partners to bring fresh foods to locations in the county where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is difficult. These are known as 'food deserts' and often only have retail food stores that are 'quick markets' that have only boxed food, such as those found in many gasoline stations. His group is working with such retailers in the community to overcome the barriers to providing fresh foods. Mr. Hartl is willing to share with physician groups the locations of fresh food sources in the community so that clinicians can inform their patients in the locations and improve their food lifestyles.

These are just two examples of information that the health department is willing to share with clinical groups so that their patients can achieve healthy, active lifestyles. Besides information, health departments also have community contacts that could be useful. For instance, the Kent County Health Department works with the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, which has a nationally recognized program (the Diabetes Prevention Program) that helps prevent individuals diagnosed with prediabetes from becoming diabetic. The health department also has links with community educators, the Grand Rapids Urban League and prevention groups that focus on the prevention of the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

As you can see there are many resources that are available from health departments. Will it be beneficial to clinical providers to access these resources? I believe that accessing these resources will help physicians and other scientific providers greatly improve the quality of life of their patients. Also, it will help in improving the outcomes of patients at the population level. This is very important for groups that have risk-based contracts with private payers and for those who serve patients who are covered by Medicare. According to an article in Modern Healthcare dated January 16, 2015, about 40% of all private payer contracts are incentive based now; those with such contracts need to consentrate on population level health.

There is a treasure of information at the health department for patient-centered medical homes that have patient care coordinators. One of the responsibilities of these coordinators is inform their patients of community resources that would be useful to them. The health department is an excellent source of such information.

The goals of healthcare providers remains to provide safe and high quality care to their patients while their management staff succeed to improve the bottom line. With the rise of risk based contracts that dictate managing care at the population level, I believe that county health departments can do a great deal to help providers meet their goals.