Public Health Innovator Stories: Multi-Component Worksite Obesity Prevention

Stories from Public Health Innovators” with an image of a map of the United States

Workwell North Carolina

In 2014, the North Carolina Division of Public Health (NCDPH) received funding from CDC to address obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke prevention.  The NCDPH Community and Clinical Connections for Prevention and Health Branch developed strategies to select settings and regions of the state to implement a project called Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention (ODHDSP). The project included a worksite component called Workwell North CarolinaExternal (WNC).

The WNC now focuses on five select regions of the state that have the highest rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke. The NCDPH identified a local health department in each region to serve as the regional lead.  Each regional lead employs a worksite faith coordinator who is responsible for moving the project forward in their respective regions.

Workwell in Action

The goal of WNC is to create and promote opportunities for North Carolinians to eat healthy and increase opportunities for physical activity in the workplace by establishing and supporting worksite wellness programs.  A number of key activities were implemented:  recruitment of employers to take part in the program, the implementation of Wellness Committees with staff representation, the annual completion of the CDC worksite health scorecard, and referral to local community resources for diabetes and hypertension prevention programs.

The worksite faith coordinators reviewed ScoreCard results with worksite stakeholders to identify gaps they were ready to address, prioritizing healthy eating, physical activity and lactation support. The coordinators then worked with those worksites to make corresponding changes.

Workwell Achievements

Since 2014, the five worksite faith coordinators supported 128 worksites’ efforts to achieve the following:

  • Complete the CDC worksite scorecard, most of them multiple times
  • Support the health of over 50,000 employees
  • Establish and maintain 84 wellness committees
  • Change policies and environments to address 171 ScoreCard identified gaps

Seventy-five-percent of employees (n = 928) from 76 participating worksites reported using at least one such change to engage in physical activity or healthy eating. Seventy-seven-percent agreed or strongly agreed that their employer supports their health.

Mountainwise

map of rural Appalachia

MountainwiseExternal is a public health partnership between the health departments in the eight far west counties in North Carolina. It is located in rural southern Appalachia. According to a report from the Appalachian Regional Commission, residents of Appalachia experience consistently poorer health outcomes than the national average and feel physically unhealthy 14% more often than the average American. In terms of worksite wellness, these findings are associated with lower productivity, more work absences, and increased work injuries. Although there are high rates of poverty in this region and poor health outcomes, this area is rich in people and natural resources. Mountainwise works to make healthy living through providing opportunities for physical activity, access to healthy food, and support for tobacco free places. Their approach uses community engagement as a key driver in their work. By honoring traditions and embracing their natural resources, they believe they can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

The Mountainwise partnership employs health educators in health departments who select worksites in their county with a special interest in worksite wellness.  They provide a briefing to employers on how they can support their worksite programs, help to establish a Worksite Wellness Committee made up of a diverse group of people including human resources, multiple levels of management, and multiple departments. The Committee is asked to complete the CDC worksite health ScoreCard. Next, the Educators provide the Committee with a link to a customized interest survey, and once they receive results from the survey, they put together the scorecard and the survey results and present those findings back to relevant committees. This process helps them to identify goals and then create action plans.

Employer Participants

  1. A medium sized local herb supplement company
    • To increase worksite fitness options, the company partnered with YMCA and other fitness instructors to provide fitness classes on the worksite.
    • The company has partners with nearby farms as part of their business. These same farms use their fresh produce, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for meals for their employees. Employees are allowed to take leftover food home at no extra cost, and check out exercise equipment, such as stability balls, yoga mats, and desk pedals.
    • To encourage additional fitness opportunities, these partners are also creating walking maps.
  2. A local manufacturer of surgical drapes:
    • Established a wellness program, wellness fairs, and free screenings through partnerships with local hospitals. The company also has a computer technology partnership that allows employees to book appointments on the site. Because of the increased screening access, 17 women made appointments, and one woman caught her breast cancer early and is now cancer free.
    • Promotes healthy eating by providing nutritional information at lunch tables through QR codes and webinars.
    • Encourages physical activity by providing get fit points. In addition, there is a 12 week weight loss challenge. One woman lost 60 pounds and was able to get off her blood pressure and cholesterol medication.
    • Partners with a local farm to provide fresh fruit Fridays. The wellness committee gives employees fresh fruit for the day.

Due to the success of the worksites, the companies decided to work with other local businesses and created the Haywood County Workwise Council. The Council’s mission is to share ideas, lessons learned and resources for other businesses in the area. The council achievements include four countywide workwise summits that over 50 businesses attended, monthly council meetings where eight businesses come together to collaborate and share ideas, and special events, such as a 5k run for worksites all over the county.

About the CDC Scorecard

CDC worksite questions are updated twice annually by experts. WorkWellnc.com provides worksite wellness tools, toolkits, and workbooks for use by the Worksite Wellness committees. Training for worksite wellness leaders, regional staff, and local health department staff is provided in three regions of the state. Additionally, three presentations on WNC are provided to different worksite audiences across the state.

Key Resources

Workwell North Carolina please visit https://workwellnc.comExternal

Mountainwise http://mountainwise.org/External

CDC Worksite Health Scorecard https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/initiatives/healthscorecard/index.html