Implementation of a Worksite Wellness Program for the Physical Plant Employees at the College of Charleston

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Davis, Kelcey Olivia
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The combination of obesity and overall poor health has become a pandemic across the US. With this pandemic comes a great increase in many preventable diseases, which are detrimental to an individual’s health, one’s overall wellbeing and are very costly in terms of healthcare expenses. Worksite wellness is a growing trend in today’s companies as it has been shown to offer many benefits, not just to employees but to the company overall as productivity increases and overall health and rapport of employees improves. The College of Charleston’s Physical Plant employees represent a population that has a high rate of preventable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. The goal of this project was to improve overall health awareness of this population by providing health education lectures on overall nutrition, information on various preventable metabolic diseases, benefits of proper nutrition and regular physical activity, and healthy food preparation. The program also included a physical activity instructional component. This included information on safety concerns and precautions of exercise and also instruction on proper exercise technique. Methods: Employees within the College of Charleston’s Physical Plant were recruited for involvement in the program on a voluntary basis. They had the opportunity to attend 6 lectures upon receiving permission from their supervisor. The lectures each covered a particular topic and included a multimedia presentation followed by question and answers and a discussion session. Physical activity instructional classes were offered three days a week on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. To note and record changes, participants completed surveys, one about the physical activity portion of the program and the other about the lecture/health education portion. Data drawn from these surveys was used to determine changes in behavior, attitude and knowledge of the participants. Results: Participants who attended at least one lecture (n=31) completed the lecture survey and all those who attended at least one physical activity session (n=24) completed the physical activity survey at the end of the program. Ninety-six percent of participants reported that they at least agreed or strongly agreed (70%) that they felt that their knowledge on health had improved as a result of attending one or more of the health lectures. Ninety-two percent reported that they agreed or strongly agreed (57%) that they felt better prepared to make healthy choices about food and 92% reported that they agreed or strongly agreed (60%) that they have a better understanding of the chronic diseases discussed in lecture (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.) The physical activity survey revealed the following information; a total of 83% of participants reported an overall increase in physical activity, whether it was that they just started an exercise routine (58%) or they had increased the amount since the start of the program (25%). Furthermore, 88% of the participants reported that they agreed (33%) or strongly agreed (54%) that they felt more confident exercising. Discussion: The use of a worksite wellness model was a viable means for implementing a healthy lifestyle intervention program for the representative underserved population. Integrating the program within and around the work schedule of employees made it more convenient and easier for participants to join and adhere to. Many individuals spend at least a third of their day at work making lifestyle intervention programs a feasible means to increase health education and participation in physical activity of employees, which led to positive healthy lifestyle changes among participants.
Physical Activity, Exercise, Fitness, Nutrition, Underserved Population, Preventable Diseases, Health Disparities