The Harvey County Health Department has assisted worksites with employee wellness, specifically assistance in tobacco cessation and tobacco free grounds policies for over a decade. Staff members have been champions of Work Well KS for 7 years. Until this spring, however, the Health Harvey Coalition had not made a concerted push for employee wellness. Thanks to the Pathways Initiative, considerable progress has been made in developing a concerted effort to improve employee wellness.
Harvey County had 13 worksites that had attended Work Well KS workshops since 2011, but only two were truly using the Work Well KS model to develop employee wellness teams and address policy and environmental changes to advance presenteeism, absenteeism, and productivity.
We decided to focus our recruitment efforts for the Pathways Initiative on worksites that have large numbers of employees with health disparities, particularly low – socioeconomic status, and the largest employers in the county. We have been considering health equity in all of our work and have noticed that we aren't reaching those voices. Focusing on the larger employers in the county with more employees living with inequities, we hope to include their experiences in decision making for healthy changes in the Harvey County.
The Healthy Harvey Coalition was lucky enough to have a Master of Public Health student who took on employee wellness as part of her capstone project. While she was learning about best practices for employee wellness and how to address policy and environmental change, she undertook communication with our targeted list of employers. By the end of her time with us, she had visited with 23 human resource departments in the county.
In addition to the letters, phone calls, and visits made by the MPH student, the Coalition also hosted a Business Forum with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas on July 12. At least one Pledge signee decided to sign after attending the Forum.
The Newton Area Chamber of Commerce members and partners meet once a month for breakfast with partners providing brief reports of activities. As a partner, the Coalition is able to address approximately 130 business and government leaders every month about Pathways activities, including employee wellness.
On July 31, we hosted a Work Well KS Foundations Workshop at Newton Medical Center in Newton. Eight worksites attended the workshop (due to employee turnover, the ninth worksite did not attend) and six worksites have signed the Pathways Worksite Pledge. One worksite chose not to sign the pledge do to lack of support at the executive level, and another worksite will make the decision about signing the pledge after a staff meeting. Three of those worksites had not been through a Work Well KS Workshop before, nor had they worked with the Health Department on any employee wellness activities.
The largest lesson we learned is that meeting one-on-one with a CEO, Executive Director, or Human Resources Manager is the best way to get a commitment. Meeting in person helps eliminate confusion and quell fears about signing a pledge to make changes in your worksite.
The Coalition will build on the process began by our MPH student and continue to visit with the worksites who expressed interest but could not attend the July 31 Workshop in an effort to reach our goal of 10 Worksite Pledges.