Physicians, nurses and other direct-care staff members are not
immune from unhealthy factors like obesity and smoking.
But they see patients every day who are hospitalized for
conditions that are exacerbated or brought on by poor lifestyle
Do health care workers bear an additional responsibility to model
the behavior they're asking of their patients? If a diabetic hears a
directive of healthy living delivered by a physician who is obese,
is that message diluted?
Health care professionals answer those questions in different
ways, but increasingly, hospitals and other medical facilities are
offering wellness programs aimed at their own employees.
"To me, we should set that bar a little higher for ourselves,"
said Pam Troup, executive director of HealthFirst Operations, which
oversees wellness at St. Anthony Hospital and its facilities. "There
are many people in health care who, unfortunately, smoke, are
overweight and don't eat right or exercise - just like everybody
else. But we see what happens when people don't follow good health
habits, and a lot of people in the hospital today are smokers and
are overweight. We see the toll it takes on people."
Hospital wellness programs are similar to those offered at
companies in other industries because the root issue is no
different: finding out what it takes to change someone's behavior.
But hospitals are often among the biggest employers in a city and
stand to reach a lot of people with incentives to get healthier.
St. Anthony has long offered a cardiovascular evaluation for
employees for a minimal co-pay, and in the last eight years, its
employee wellness committee has created different competitions and
incentives, such as a free pedometer for people who walk a certain
number of steps or gift cards and iPods for those who get the
requisite number of points for eating well and exercising, Troup
More recently, it has begun offering discounts in the cafeteria
for employees who choose the wellness menu, and its meals are
spotlighted in a weekly newsletter. But it's rare that a hospital
will switch to a completely healthy menu in its cafeteria, she said.
"You have to serve what sells - it's a business like anything
else," Troup said. "So you'll see unhealthy food in hospital
cafeterias and you wonder why, but it's a business."
St. Anthony also began paying half the membership dues at the
YMCA for employees and their families, a factor that led to the
opening of a YMCA in the Plaza Court in Midtown, Troup said.
Wellness also has received extra attention at OU Physicians, part
of the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health
Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. …