Christina Falahee Wellness Coordinator/Health Coach
During the summer, many of us are excited to spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s during these warm months we spend most of our time outdoors. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, moderation is key.
July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month which is a great way to shine a light on the effects of UV rays and spread the importance of sun safety. UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States. It can cause eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.
Who are Most Susceptible?
- Had skin cancer before
- Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
- Have freckles and burn before tanning
- Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
- Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases with elevation)
- Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
- Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
- Spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
- Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
- Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV
- Have had an organ transplant
- Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
- Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?
- Seek Shade: UV light is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and it’s important to protect yourself.
- Protect Your Skin with Clothing: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.
- Read Your Sunscreen Labels: Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with sun protection factor (SPF) provides UVB ray protection. Values of 30 or higher are recommend. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating, even if it’s labeled “water resistant”. Be sure to check the expiration date on the sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 or 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.
- Wear Your Sunglasses: Effective sunglasses should block glare and 99 – 100% of UV rays and have a wraparound shape to protect the eyes from all angles.
- Routinely Check Your Skin for Any Changes: Birthmarks, new moles and marks should be consistently examined for alterations in size, shape and color or if they look and feel differently from other moles and marks on your body.
Toni Sperlbaum VP of Sales and Marketing
Whether your wellness program is in its infancy or has been around for a while, The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies has determined that there are three primary best practices to be successful; leadership support/promotion, devoting sufficient resources to health promotion efforts, and a wellness committee.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Culture eats strategy for lunch”? We as HR professionals can strategize the “best wellness program” all day long, but if your culture is directly interfering with your wellness efforts (your manager rolls their eyes when you leave to do your biometric health screening, walking or stretch breaks are considered you skimping out on your job, the organization celebrates “Donut Friday” every week, etc.), then the strategy means nothing. A wellness committee is going to be the accountability point for your strategic plan and will be the grassroots effort to changing that culture.
The role of a wellness committee is to communicate, participate in, motivate, and support the organization’s worksite wellness program. They will foster collaboration and enthusiasm among employees, provide a link between employees and management, represent and share co-workers’ ideas and concerns, encourage a positive work environment, and can reshape the company’s culture to promote healthy living.
What are the best practices?
- Meet regularly (every other month or quarterly)
- Call for new members annually
- Set terms on your committee to continue getting fresh ideas
- Get a good cross section of representatives, considering gender, age, type of departments/workers, management types, etc.
- Don’t get all of your runners and skinniest people on the committee. This is so important! It’s easy to think “they are a runner, they should be on the committee!” The truth is, unhealthy employees can relate to the unhealthiest representatives and that is exactly the kind of traction we are looking to get
- Set committee procedures – have a formal agenda, create minutes, nominate a chair
- Set ground rules – be prompt and courteous to others’ ideas, establish “voting” to determine which ideas get implemented, protect employee confidentiality when sharing ideas/concerns, and follow through on promises and commitments made.
- Have the committee (not HR) develop the strategic plan, a mission statement, and a vision for the program. The mission statement is there to guide activity planning and facilitate smart spending (your CFO will love that). If the activities do not directly impact the mission statement, it is not carried out.
- HR should not be involved in this committee. It should be employee run for the most effective results (although holding the chair accountable through one-on-one touch-bases is absolutely acceptable and encouraged).
Other ideas for committees
- Have your CEO put out a letter or video charging the organization to make wellness a priority, and invite members to join the committee. This will very boldly give permission.
- Have supervisors nominate their employees. This gets supervisors involved, giving permission for their employee’s participation, and give them the chance to recognize the employees by nominating them for a special project
- Have an application process for interested employees. This lets members know what they’re in for and committing to.
- Host an awards luncheon at the end of the year. Give awards to committee members or wellness champions for highest personal participation in activities, the highest group participation in screenings/HRAs, the most additional programs implemented, and many others! Invite supervisors, senior leadership, and even family members would be great recognition for the employee.
There are many ways to utilize a wellness committee, but if you have many of the above processes in place, your committee is off to a GREAT start!
Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager
In Washington D.C., September 21 – 25 is QUIT WEEK! That brings to light a hot topic in employee wellness. Smoking Cessation is an important and high demand piece of worksite wellness programs. The average tobacco user costs employers approximately $5,816. That’s $2,300 more than a healthy employee and similar to the cost of one with a Body Mass Index >35, according to a study from Ohio State University. In fact, this study breaks down the annual costs to business in the following way:
Presenteeism, or reduced productivity related to nicotine addiction:$462
Smoke Breaks: $3,077
There are many things an organization can do to aid in cessation:
- Tailored 1-on-1 Health Coaching: each person is different and has a different “why” to quitting. Coaches will explore this on a personal level and bring forward the motivation to quit smoking and educate participants on not only the risks of using, but what options are available to quit.
- Online Self-Paces Courses: While participants are twice as likely to be successful when they work with a coach, making an online course available will get participants thinking about their addiction and will put to practice great cessation methods. An incentive ALWAYS helps employees complete this step!
- Nicotine Testing: In our experience, we see a 10% increase between self-reported nicotine usage and tested usage. That means 10% of people are LYING! Imposing a wellness incentive for non-nicotine users may be just the thing that user needed to quit.
- Marketing Campaigns: It could be as simple as educating employees! Strategic marketing can be point-of-contact reminders to employees what resources are out there to help them and that they are not alone.
- Nicotine Use Policies: A very effective method of impacting your workforce is amending company policy. These could include: a nicotine free campus, putting in “butt huts”/designated smoking areas, not hiring nicotine users, and more.
- Reimbursement Programs: Budget to provide a reimbursement to employees if they complete a local cessation course at either 50% or even 100%. Your support would really send the message that your organization cares about the wellbeing of their employees.
Health Plan Advocate, an employee wellness company in Grand Rapids, can help you implement the most successful nicotine cessation program to your employees. Contact us at 616-575-0211 x108 to get started!