IU Health employees get exercise—and raise money—in the Bed Race & Boogie. (Photo provided)
Indiana University Health’s wellness program is so robust that it has an entire division whose purpose is to bring healthy habits to the broader community, and it’s been recognized nationally for its success.
IU Health’s Garden on the Go program, which brings healthy food to high-poverty neighborhoods, was represented when the White House convened various groups from around the country to share best practices in solving community problems.
Garden on the Go, which started in the summer of 2011 as a mobile produce truck visiting various neighborhoods around the city, has morphed into a year-round effort that every week sets up what amounts to a mini farmers’ market at 22 locations around the city.
Lisa Cole, manager of community outreach for IU Health, said the program recently recorded its 40,000th transaction. Garden on the Go partners with 22 organizations, such as public housing facilities and senior centers, that host the program inside their facilities.
Abandoning the produce truck model and moving the sales inside has been the key to Garden on the Go’s success, Cole said. It removes barriers such as access to the truck and inclement weather. Last summer’s heat “probably would have killed the program,” said Cole. Instead, it’s still winning awards, including this year’s State Health Commissioner’s Award for Public Health.
Of course the heart of IU Health’s wellness program remains focused on the hospital system’s 26,000 statewide employees.
Marcella Cooper, IU Health’s manager of employee wellness, notes that a hospital wellness program has to serve more than the needs of doctors and nurses; it has to serve those working in food service, housekeeping, information technology and other fields.
That diverse workforce, along with its round-the-clock schedule and various locations around the state, means IU Health has to communicate with employees in a variety of ways, from home mailings, to videos to emails. And at almost any meeting an employee goes to there is a “wellness moment” to discuss something that needs to be focused on from a wellness standpoint or to provide some kind of program update, Cooper said.
IU Health’s Wellness Champions program recruits willing employee participants to champion the wellness program among their coworkers. Then there’s the weekly “Sanctuary Moment,” an email that goes out every Monday that is “designed to give you a moment to reflect, feel, and restore your soul in these busy times.” A recent example discussed the benefits of drinking water and asked how spiritual needs could also be quenched.
The hospital’s wellness program includes more traditional elements, including a new wellness portal, which provides employees with access to their personal health information and tools, tips and resources to monitor and improve their health. It also features an emotional and spiritual well-being toolkit developed internally at IU Health.
There’s an employee health clinic, free health coaching and disease education and employee assistance counselors to help with stress management, personal crisis situations, conflict resolution and financial issues. Employees also have access to low-cost, onsite fitness centers and classes, walking maps and bike racks. A “Use the Stairs” campaign encourages people to forego elevator rides to build physical activity into their daily work routine. IU Health’s free Quit for Life program helps employees beat their smoking habits.
Food options at IU Health facilities are being upgraded as part of an effort undertaken with the national organization Partnership for a Healthier America.
IU Health is working to hit various benchmarks set out by the partnership, including eliminating junk food within five feet of the cash register and getting rid of fried food. One goal is to provide nutrition labeling for all cafeteria food options by next July.
More than 5,500 employees representing more than 20 IU Health entities participated in this year’s Employee Weight Loss Challenge, a source of camaraderie and friendly competition for employees statewide. Sometimes other competitions are extended to outside organizations. In Bloomington, for example, hospital employees are challenging Bloomington’s city employees in a variety of competitions, Cooper said.
“People spend so much of their lives at work, so if we can help them live their best lives it can trickle down to their family and community,” Cooper said.•