OEA Choice Trust hosted their 5th annual Journey to Wellness event in Eugene Oregon yesterday. Over 25 grantees were in attendance. They came together to learn, share and network. The mission of the OEA Choice Trust Wellness Grant Program is to improve the health and well-being of Oregon school employees through grant-making; focusing on empowering and enabling the participants to take responsibility for improvement of their health within a supportive environment.
I mean, how cool that this organization, in partnership with many other organizations is specifically working on the health and well-being of school staff? My dear friend and colleague Inge Aldersebaes is leading the effort for OEA Choice Trust and they are working with school districts that reach from north to south and east to west in Oregon. Grantees include districts that have thousands of students to districts that have one K-12 building in their community. Representatives from these schools and districts were present to celebrate and share stories, learn from content experts and get invigorated for this school year.
Four break-outs occurred in the morning and I facilitated one. A survey was sent to grantees asking them what topics they'd like to hear more about and discuss. The four topics included: Engaging and Motivating Employees, Partnering with your Health Plan, Communication for Engagement and Creating Sustainable Employee Wellness Programs.
The breakout I was asked to facilitate was around sustainability; how do we create sustainable school employee health programs? I started by laying the foundation of the topic by talking about the history of Coordinated School Health and the importance of sending consistent messages in a school setting. I used tobacco as an example of how far we've come over the years. I talked about the importance of collaboration versus silos. As a group we reiterated making the case for employee wellness, including cost, strong workforce & community, efficiency, safety, role modeling, consistent messages and the academic performance of students. I addressed the oh-so-popular staff wellness program without creating sustainable change... meaning systems change at a school that creates a 'culture of health'.
I shared what I know are the best practice around sustainable school health programs:
- Developing a School Health Advisory Council
- Gaining Administrator buy-in
- Using a Needs Assessment Tool (like CDC's School Health Index or Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Inventory)
- Aligning school health programs, policies and practices to require education initiatives at the federal, state and local level
I talked about the research behind systems change... it takes time, you need strong leadership, how to address resistance and it's about building relationships and trust.
I shared the Directors of Health Promotion and Education elements of a comprehensive school employee wellness program and shared these websites:
CO Legacy - http://colegacy.org/workplace-wellness/
Kaiser- Thriving Schools- http://thrivingschools.kaiserpermanente.org/
Wellness Council of America- many tools and resources around creating well-workplaces- http://welcoa.org/wellworkplace/
Humana Vitality- a wellness and rewards program https://www.humana.com/vitality/
Finally, I had all my participants discuss what their schools/districts are doing around employee health in the following areas:
- Veteran and military families
- Employee wellness
- Benefits and Health Insurance
- Built Environment
- Talent Management
- Family Friendly workplace
Kudos to OEA Choice Trust and their partners! I hope to make their School Employee Wellness (SEW) Conference March 23-25, 2014 in Bend. Anyone is invited to attend. For more information, click here.