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Employee Wellness: Have You Invested in the Health and Well being of your Employees?

Mary Wanjau at a check up

Some quick questions before we begin;

  • As an individual how can I live a healthier, happier and more productive life?
  • As a business, how does the health of your employees relate to your bottom line?
  • Is the health of your employees part of your business plan?

The emerging Global Health Approach calls each of us to participate in improving our health outcomes through prevention of disease, early detection of disease through regular screening, promptly seeking quality medical attention when an ailment does and compliance to treatment and care for any disease that has been diagnosed.

The call is to shift from a focus on sickness and disease to a focus based on wellness and prevention.

Often when someone mentions the word health, our minds quickly drift to disease and illness.

Adding life to our days and improving our health outcomes requires us to perceive our health holistically;

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as …a complete state of physical, mental and social Well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In 1986 this definition was expanded to define health as …a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept emphasizing social and physical resources, as well as physical capacity. (Nutbeam, D., 1998)

The call to action to each individual is to adopt lifestyle choices that promote health. Some risk factors for disease are non-modifiable such as age, sex and genetics. But other factors – both lifestyle and biomedical – can be modified. These include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure and overweight and obesity. Other chronic disease risk factors include harmful alcohol consumption, limited physical activity and poor diet and nutrition. Reducing risk, especially in situations where multiple risk factors occur, will have an impact on a wide range of health problems.

As a nation, we are faced with a double burden of non-communicable and communicable diseases.

In Kenya, emerging trends point to the fact that non communicable conditions and injuries/ violence related conditions will increasingly, in the foreseeable future, be the leading contributors to high burden of disease, although the role of communicable diseases will remain significant.

According to the Kenya Health Policy situation trends and distribution, 1994 – 2010, and projections to 2030,  current total annual mortality is estimated at approximately 420,000 persons, out of which 270,000 (64%), 110,000 (26%) and 40,000 (10%) are due to communicable, non communicable, and injury conditions respectively.

Future projections suggest that if the current policy directions and interventions are sustained, the overall mortality will reduce by only 14% (360,000 persons) annually by 2030. The contribution by disease domain would however be different, with communicable, non communicable, and injuries conditions contributing 140,000 (39%), 170,000 (47%), and 60,000 (14%) respectively. This represents a 48% reduction in absolute deaths due to communicable conditions, but a 55% increase in deaths due to non communicable conditions, and a 25% increase in deaths due to injuries / violence.

Role of health promotion

According to Michael P. O’Donnell (2009) Health Promotion is the art and science of helping people discover the synergies between their core passions and optimal health, enhancing their motivation to strive for optimal health, and supporting them in changing their lifestyle to move toward a state of optimal health.

Optimal health is a dynamic balance of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health.

Health promotion has also been considered as the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health.

There is room for all of us to embrace the Call to Action at the respective stages we are; whether in prevention of disease or compliance to treatment for a specific ailment in support of continued good health while already on treatment.

This is a higher calling and takes deliberate effort. To each of us, the secret and the challenge is to ensure that each day finds us striving towards good health. Ensuring that amidst your busy schedules, pursuit of good health is a priority to you.

 The workplace

The overall objective of a Workplace Wellness Program is to promote healthy lifestyles among employees hence creating a competitive edge in talent management. In line with the Kenya Vision 2030, good health is expected to play an important role in boosting economic growth, poverty reduction and the realization of social goals.

An organization should aim to identify and determine the organisation’s health risks, aim towards reduction and mitigation of identified health risks witha goal to improved wellness and productivity of the workforce.

Out of the national population that is employed, individuals spend up to 60% of their waking hours in their place of work. This makes the workplace is a popular setting for health promotion initiatives. In addition, the workplace setting  provides easy and regular access to a large number of people who make up a relatively stable population, so repeated wellness interventions are feasible; it also has the potential for higher participation rates than in ‘non- captive’ situations, and employers can often be persuaded to offer incentives to increase participation; the workplace setting may encourage sustained peer support and positive peer pressure; and it provides access to young generation , who have particularly low general practitioner consultation rates, and are thus unlikely to benefit from opportunistic health promotion activity in primary care designed to increase awareness of health issues and help to establish healthier behaviors.

Workplace health promotion has been associated with a reduction in health risks and promotion of healthy lifestyles; and with improvements in economic and productivity factors including medical costs, compensation benefits, employee absenteeism, job satisfaction and productivity. Workplace health promotion also has the potential to be actively disseminated by employees to their families and social networks, thus having an indirect effect on the health of the community at large.

At our workplaces, the call is to put in place wellness programs that enable you achieve a healthy work environment. This is an environment in which employees have made health and health promotion a priority and part of their working lives. That indeed is The Call to wellness.