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The infographic above from a 2012 Bipartisan Policy Commission report acknowledges the paradigm shift needed to create health in America and the challenges to changing deep rooted behaviors in how we live, work and play.  The report calls on leaders in municipalities, businesses and key institutions to lead the charge to change.

While we each have personal responsibility for the choices that we make around health behaviors, we don’t all have the same access to environments and resources that support and promote health.  In West Virginia, we are at the top of the worst health list for nearly all lifestyle related disease and last in the Gallup Wellbeing at Work Index.  The beginning of our collective shift in improving health in our state, is simply prioritizing it. Health, as defined by the World Health Organization in 1948, is the state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing that allows people to live into their fullest potential.  We’ll never get to optimal health by focusing solely on the treatment of disease. 

It’s up to US.

We’ll also never get to a vibrant economy in West Virginia with our existing rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and addiction.  Trends in the workforce show that employees, especially millennials, are expecting more from their employers.  Top organizations are responding with the recognition that humans are most valuable when they are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, have autonomy over their work and can align their work with intrinsic motivations and personal values.  Companies that show up as caring matter to employees, and have a positive impact for employers.  A recent study showed that companies recognized by the C. Everett Koop National Health Awards for nurturing a culture of health, by specifically focusing on the wellbeing and safety of their workers, outperformed the stock market by a factor of 3:1. (Goetzl et al, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Jan 2016)

Given the percentage of waking hours that employees spend at work, it’s advantageous for everyone to care about the quality of the work environment. When wellness is demonstrated from the leadership team, by lived example, by policies and built environments that support worker health, and by how supervisors exhibit caring behaviors, the message filters to all levels of the organization and influences culture. When employees who are increasingly recognizing the high cost of burnout, yet value the relationships and social networks they have at work, take responsibility for caring for themselves and co-workers a culture of health is further strengthened.

The good news is that creating a culture of health in any organization is doable, affordable ,and need not include high ticket items like gyms and incentives.  To learn more about what you can do to enhance health and wellbeing in your organization, contact Colleen Harshbarger at Wellbeing Solutions: 304-508-2398.