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Wellness Coordinators - Let’s Do Both Worksite Wellness and Employee Health Status Improvement

A lot of employers are today offering wellness programs at their workplaces. Are they really health programs? Check out the reasons the reasons why they might not be.

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When it comes to workplace wellness, I often find ourselves thinking of issues as either/or instead of being inclusive. The majority of worksite wellness programs nowadays aren’t about health and wellness however, rather they focus on improving the health of the employees. Although our focus is on the health of employees but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t begin to provide wellness-related programs and other interventions too.

What is the difference?
There are a variety of definitions of wellness to look at, I’ll stick to the definition and model set by the National Wellness Institute (NWI). NWI describes wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.” This NWI concept of wellbeing is comprised of six interconnected dimensions:

  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Occupational

As with well-being, health is typically described as an all-encompassing concept. The definition of health is typically by:

  • Physical problems like disability, pain, or other conditions that could cause death.

  • Emotional issues

  • Social functioning
    Health status is a picture of health at any specific point in time. The health status of a person can be assessed on both an individual as well as at the population levels.

Health status of individuals can be assessed objectively by:

  • The presence or absence illness
    • The existence or non-existence risk factors
    • The seriousness of the disease found
    Health perceptions of the general public.
    The workplace is where employees’ health status is typically measured by using biometric and health risk assessments as well as biometric screenings.

As best I can find out, there isn’t an exact measure of health. Since the measure of health status includes general perceptions of health, the concept of health status can be viewed as subjective.

If we look at the definitions above with the way in which worksite wellness is practiced today and we can see that what’s being referred to as”wellness” today is not actually health, but rather improving the health of employees (EHSI).

In my opinion it is time to not call what we do in the present worksite wellness and label it improving employee health status (or employee health improvement) instead. Instead of making phony worksite wellness programs, we should instead focus on creating effective EHSI programs that are effective and efficient.

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With today’s workplace wellness programs that is focused almost entirely upon physical wellness, a lot of the principles and practices currently in use can easily be incorporated into the model of EHSI programs. Because the health of a person is a result of the state of health, risks and general perception of health We should focus the attention of EHSI programs to prevention of chronic diseases, control, self-care for medical issues, and helping employees better understand and take action on their health condition.

As we’re not confronted with a binary choice now, we should also be able with wellness programs simultaneously we’re doing EHSI programs. EHSI programs are not able to be equated with wellness since they were not intended to. At their very best EHSI programs are created to prevent health issues. Avoidance or prevention alone is not enough to achieve health. To achieve wellness, you must take a series of intentional actions to get beyond the stage of prevention or avoiding health risk. Prevention and avoiding are dependent on the pathogenesis model that will not, in itself, be able to bring about wellness.

Take note of the definition of health. It’s about providing opportunities for “a more successful existence.” It is a process in which the health status of an employee is a snapshot of the exact time. It is closely linked to the concept of salutogenesis which is the creation of opportunities to improve health.

Because wellness encompasses many dimensions I’m sharing my current ideas about what I consider to be the definition of wellness at work for all of the dimensions of wellness:

  • Physical The physical domain will be covered under the EHSI program.
  • Social - Building positive, supportive, and employee first or employee-centric workplace environments and cultures Random acts of kindness or employee-led volunteer programs
  • Brain health - Intellectual and fitness
    • Spirituality - Helping workers to find significance and meaning in their life and work
  • Emotional-related - Workplace mental health promotion, the management of stress and building resilience
  • occupational - Integration with employee safety Integration with employee development and training

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I believe that pathogenesis and salutogenesis are two distinct segments of the health-wellbeing continuum that can be co-exist by leveraging each other’s fundamental principles. Employers are able to and should offer both EHSI and wellness programs for their workplaces.