Holly Normand could have been in a warm cafeteria eating her lunch.
Instead, the benefits co-ordinator at Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg bundled up and headed outside for a brisk walk on a chilly, rainy fall day.
And she wasn’t the only staff member participating in the lunch-time walking club that’s part of a new initiative at the health centre called the Inside Out Project.
“We all had our hoods up and we were just stomping out in the rain,” Normand said with a laugh. “That first day was freezing.”
Launched in October, Inside Out is a unique project offering programming and health information to improve staff wellness on physical, mental and social levels.
The project is modelled after the Public Health Agency of Canada’s 12 Determinants of Health, which include education and literacy, gender, income and personal health practices.
Misericordia Health Centre’s education committee wanted to showcase the determinants and came up with the project.
“We took all social, fitness and spiritual sessions within the facility and we put them under the umbrella of Inside Out,” human resources director Sharon Stanley said.
“We’re already doing a lot and now we’re adding extra ones. For each determinant of health, we’ve assigned a committee member a determinant and a month of the year. They’re looking for speakers, material, lunch-and-learns.”
October focused on the determinant of personal health practices and coping skills.
“We handed out a day’s worth of nutritious meal plans at the walking group, for example,” said Stanley, who’s part of the club that averaged 25 members in October.
A workshop featured a speaker from Blue Cross’s employee-assistant program, who gave information on how to read food labels.
Spirituality sessions with speakers were also held at the faith-based centre.
“That is an essential component to the full being,” Stanley said.
“We can’t look after our body or just our mind or just our spirit. They’re all interwoven together to make the complete person, to make everybody who they are.”
November is national prostate month, a theme that corresponded to the gender determinant of health.
“We’ll be doing men’s health issues, we’ll be doing communicating techniques across genders,” Stanley said.
There may also be information sessions related to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues, she added.
December’s determinant is income and social status, which fits with the month’s holiday spending.
“We’re looking at how you budget, how do you maximize your income tax return, what supports are available for care-givers, how do we keep our parents well, what do we watch for, how do we live simply with sustainability in mind.”
One idea being considered is promoting a “buy nothing day” to staff.
“Buy nothing anywhere in that 24-hour period,” Stanley explained. “You bring your lunch, you bring your coffee, you have the water that’s at the fountains.
“Just what would that look like for a full day for you? Where is that impact? It was kind of an interesting thought.”
There may also be a money-management session and a swap meet for books and CDs.
She predicted the project will have wide-ranging benefits.
“The awareness will be on how helpful and useful we are to one another – our community, ourselves, our families,” Stanley said.
“It extends beyond the job we do. It extends right throughout the organization.”
The project enhances staff-wellness programs already at Misericordia.
The facility has a fitness centre available 24/7, including classes such as Zumba, yoga, tai chi, pilates and circuit training. Staff can also take aquasize classes in the centre’s indoor pool and play on the facility’s soccer team.
Stanley likes the idea of the walking group because anybody can do it without equipment. Walks are three times a week for a half hour. One day is led by the manager of the local Running Room, while a point person from Misericordia leads the other two days so there’s always someone to walk with.
Normand has been at Misericordia for eight years and has taken the Zumba classes. She likes the camaraderie of walking with other staff.
“It’s nice to actually talk to them on a personal level,” Normand, 40, said. “I walk with a couple of other girls that I don’t get to see very often. We talk about personal issues outside of work – about their families, what they’re doing.”
She also appreciates the health benefits.
“I’m more productive. I feel a lot better,” Normand said. “I don’t feel as tired in the afternoon.“It’s a great place to work and (the Inside Out Project is) just another added bonus to the facility.”
That’s the kind of feedback Stanley is receiving from staff, as well as community members who were welcomed to join.
“I think Inside Out is really an opportunity for us to showcase all the fabulous things we do and continue to do,” Stanley said.“It’s not static. Every year, we will continue with the determinants. We may continue to keep some of the initiatives, but we’re perpetually going to grow it with new ideas, new energies and input welcome from the community, staff and volunteers.”