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AHA: Make Wellness Part of Healthcare Workforce Culture

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 27, 2011

Asked how health systems can overcome resistance that comes from ethnic or other values in which the practices reward heavier girth, or cigarette smoking. And likewise, how does a hospital system overcome the sense that among some employee groups, there's a belief that one's own health status and practices are a personal matter and not something that should be the target of an employer's pressure.

Bluford replies emphatically, "You can't convince me that people would be rather be out of shape and unproductive and sick. Sure, I agree with you that it's hard, but I don't think you can underestimate the power of leadership leading by example."

At Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, employees can get up to a $500 (single person) or $2,000 (family) discount on annual health premiums by participating in a health and wellness program, and 82% of employees participate. They have to agree to wear pedometers, and log in 7,000 steps a day.

The AHA report lists seven recommendations for systems to improve their wellness attitudes.

• Create robust health and wellness programs that serve as examples for their communities. Work with local employers.

• Start with the board of trustees and the CEO. Create indicators on computer monitor dashboards, and reinforce positive results through executive compensation.

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