Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

19
Working Well: Communicating
Individual and Collective
Wellness Initiatives
Patricia Geist-Martin
San Diego State University
Kim Horsley
Independent Consultant
Angele Farrell
Remedy Intelligent Staffing

Health is intimately connected with the places and times we inhabit. Thomas McKewon (1988) studied the history of illness and disease and concluded that in all historical eras the most common causes of sickness and death were “the prevailing conditions of life” (p. 91). Today, as we begin the new millennium, the conditions of our lives continue to significantly impact the diseases we experience. Anorexia nervosa, depression, AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypertension, and stroke are all easily recognizable, devastating diseases that plague today's life experience. Yet, none of these diseases was significant or even recognized just 100 years ago.

With most Americans spending almost 50% of their lives at work, undoubtedly organizations play a large role in constructing the conditions of a person's life and, consequently his or her experiences of health and disease. Often this role is central to a person's experience of health and illness, shown by the fact that 78% of people claim that work is their biggest source of stress (Quick, Quick, Nelson, & Hurrell, 1997). The effects of stress, such as poor mental and physical health, cause more employees to take sick days and put in claims for workers' compensation—indicators that the workplace is frequently an unhealthy environment. As a result, companies are developing wellness campaigns to combat the problems arising from stress.

From large corporations to small nonprofit organizations, employers in a broad spectrum of industries are implementing initiatives to make employees more comfortable at work and to positively affect the bottom line (Chenoweth, 1994; Harris, 1994). These initiatives include but are not limited to fitness and nutrition classes, smoking cessation campaigns,

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