Health promotion: Practice what you preach

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A healthier lifestyle was introduced at Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) over ten years ago when Lunch Bunch Fitness classes were offered to employees, giving them an opportunity to sign up for basic exercise classes taught by a trained staff instructor during noon hour. Because of its effectiveness and staff wanting more options related to fitness, a Healthy Lifestyles Program was designed to encourage and support employees to make healthier life choices. Other activities emerged over the years including Yoga classes, Jazzercise Dance and Strength Training.

Momentum for programs has grown with staff participation and development of new initiatives related to proactive health and wellness. Windsor Regional Hospital partnered with the local Health Unit and sporting outlets who offered tips, advice and information to help employees make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.

A dedicated page was designed on the hospital intranet offering many health and wellness topics that included Running and Walking Clinics; Workplace Violence Prevention; Self Defense Classes; Worklife Balance; Nutrition and Safe Food Handling; Benefits of Increased Physical Activity; Ride Your Bike To Work; Weight Watchers; Summer Fun and Safety; Stress and Depression; the Biggest Loser-Weight Loss Program; Responsible Drinking; Heart Health; Get your Butt Out (smoking cessation and turning off the TV initiative) and recently, the introduction of ZUMBA, an exhilarating exercise program fusing hypnotic latin rhythms with easy to follow moves, creating a dynamic fitness program that is the rage among hospital staff. Some programs have a fee associated due to professional trainers however, discounts and reimbursement incentives are also offered, keeping staff interested and motivated to participate in more activities.

“A year ago I embarked on a lifestyle change beginning with weight loss and exercise. I was thrilled when the hospital offered a lunch-time yoga program. I did enjoy yoga but often did not set aside time to practice it. Having the half-hour in the hospital auditorium three-times a week has been a wonderful experience. It has motivated me to participate in other activities offered through the Healthy Lifestyles Program,” says one staff member.

Lunch and Learn Sessions evolved, providing staff with education and information presentations by the hospital’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) provider and other internal resources. Topics offered have included addictions, parenting issues, mental health, cancer prevention and relaxation methods. “We try to be innovative and bring in a variety of topics that appeal to vast staff audience,” says Melissa Simas, Manager of Human Resources, responsible for the Healthy Lifestyles Program. The Lunch and Learn Sessions are video-conferenced to enable staff at both campus sites an opportunity to participate in the experience.

One of the major initiatives, ‘10,000 Steps To 10,000 Pounds’ introduced over a year ago came about when David Musyj, was appointed as the new President and CEO for WRH. At the time, he took a good look in the mirror! What he saw was not what he was about to advocate “How could I be a role model to the staff and the community of a major hospital that advocated proactive health and wellness when I was not doing so myself.” states Musyj. “As health-care employees, we have to not only set an example but also take care of ourselves while taking care of others.” The ‘10,000 Steps to 10,000 Pounds Challenge’ allowed staff to track their fitness goals online and receive ongoing incentives to stay on track. The weekly challenge was a resounding success by the end of 2008 with over 5,633 pounds lost and 52,821,111 steps taken.

Windsor Regional Hospital also initiated a Genius Lab on its Intranet site encouraging ideas from staff on anything that would improve and enhance the organization. More than one staff member suggested on-site fitness centres in the hospital. Through the generous support of several suppliers, the idea became a reality with two complete fully-equipped fitness centres opening at the Met and Western Campus.

The President and CEO became one of the frequent participants, losing over 80 pounds within months and mentoring many staff to follow in his footsteps. Currently, there are over 475 active staff members of Windsor Regional Hospital using the on-site gym facilities on a 24-hour, 7-day per week basis.

Based on responses to an annual Quality of Work Life Survey, staff morale has improved since the Healthy Lifestyles Program began. Decreases in sick time and absenteeism have been documented along with a decrease in corporate turnover rates.

One of the more recent programs offered is Your Health Matters, a Windsor Regional Hospital Cancer Prevention and Screening Pilot Project. The program was developed in collaboration with Cancer Prevention Network Erie St. Clair and the Canadian Cancer Society. It is a one to two year workplace health education program and cancer screening recruitment initiative where participants will experience four educational components, each themed to provide greater detail on a different modifiable risk factor including healthy weight; healthy eating; and physical activity; alcohol and smoking. The overall intent of this program is to develop a best-practice cancer prevention and screening program that can be rolled out through local, regional and potentially national workplaces.

The success of the Windsor Regional Hospital-Healthy Lifestyles Program speaks for itself as it has won four consecutive Gold Awards as a Healthy Workplace from the Health Action Working Toward Wellness & Windsor Essex Health Unit. It has also received National Quality Institute (NQI) Level 2 status; participated in the 2008 Annual Innovations in Health Care Expo and received the 2008 Bike Friendly Workplace Award.

The Windsor Regional Hospital-Healthy Lifestyles Program is available throughout the multi-site organization. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide a healthier and happier workplace. For more information on the Windsor Regional Hospital-Healthy Lifestyles Program, go to www.wrh.on.ca or contact Melissa Simas at melissa_simas@wrh.on.ca