St. John's employees take on a personal project
Occupational health nurse Sherry Cole checks the blood cholesterol level of city employee Chris Ashley. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram
The City of St. John's has taken a direct approach to the health and well-being of its employees.
"We all want our employees working, getting their cheques and going home healthy to their families, rather than being in a rehab situation," says employee health and wellness educator Bryan Harris.
A recently established Health and Wellness Centre helps employees detect and address potential health issues.
"Most people are not usually aware that they have a health issue. It's usually when an incident occurs - be it a heart attack or a stroke or they're diagnosed with diabetes - that they realize their wellness isn't as good as it should be," Harris says.
The centre is co-ordinated by the city's employee wellness division and is located at the rear of its municipal depot just off Blackmarsh Road in St. John's.
Harris is now heading a pilot project focused solely on workers within the street division, where as many as 300 workers can be employed during the winter.
What the city is aiming to do, he says, is take a basic assessment of each employee's health, discuss the results with the worker and let them decide what they want to do with the information.
"This gives them an opportunity to intervene before a critical incident occurs," Harris says.
Before the assessment is conducted, the employees are shown a one-hour presentation which highlights the city's wellness initiative.
The assessment that follows the presentation sees the city's occupational health nurses taking the employee's blood pressure, cholesterol level, waist measure and weight.
A body fat analysis is then done to determine the individual's percentage of body fat.
If any red flags are raised that could indicate future health problems, the employee is given an opportunity to meet with Harris or one of the nurses.
Together, they'll develop a personal approach to correct any areas that need to be addressed.
Thus far, Harris says, about 60 street division employees have been introduced to the project.
"From the assessments that we've done, we've been able to highlight health concerns that may need to be addressed with their physician or with our educators," Harris says.
Harris says the project has the full support of council, managers, and unions. While such a team approach will be of benefit to the project, the key to its success will likely be the fact that it is both confidential and voluntary.
Chris Ashley has been working with the city since 1991.
Ashley admits that when he heard about the project his initial thought was that his co-workers in the street division wouldn't take much interest.
"Once it started, I couldn't believe it. Most of the guys were interested and realized it's good for their health," Ashley says. His assessment pointed out issues that he's now dealing with, including low body fluid.
"I didn't know I was dehydrated so now I'm doing things to cure that problem," he says.
Paul Peddigrew has almost 30 years service with the city. He also supports the health and wellness initiative.
"Everybody here knows somebody who is after having a stroke or a heart attack. So, I think that's why this is taking off pretty good," Peddigrew says.
One positive both men have taken from their involvement with the Health and Wellness Centre is the importance of butting out.
Ashley and Peddigrew are both long time smokers.
Both are now seriously trying to quit.
The centre will also offer programs various educational seminars on health related topics.
Harris feels the pilot project will show the employees they are valued. As well, he says, it may help prevent future health problems, thus cutting down on lost time.
While Ashley and Peddigrew agree these are good reasons to concentrate on health and wellness, they say the initiative will also be of benefit further down the road.
"We're getting up to retirement age now and we want to be healthy when that time comes. So this is a win-win thing if you want to avail of it," Peddigrew says.
"And if you don't want to take advantage of what they are offering us, then that's your choice. But I can tell you that this program has helped me a lot already," Ashley says.