Contagious Diseases Often Unrecognized Within Work Place

Does your work place have any socially contagious diseases? Many researchers are saying obesity, smoking, etc., are socially contagious diseases. For example, one person’s obesity can significantly increase the chance his friends, family, or coworkers may become overweight. The same phenomenon exists for smoking. If peers, coworkers, family, and/or close friends are smokers, there is less social pressure to consider smoking cessation. About a third of Americans are obese (not overweight, but obese – which is about 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight). We know obesity impacts one’s health by increasing chances of heart disease, diabetes, mobility issues, etc. Common modifiable health risks are associated with short-term increases in the likelihood of incurring health expenditures and in the magnitude of those expenditures. 1 Another study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, examined multigenerational data over a span of 32 years.2 The study had some amazing findings like: a person’s chances of becoming obese increases by 57% if they have a friend who becomes obese, and the risk of mutual friends becoming obese over the next two to four years increases by 171%. But the study found the reverse is also true – when one person starts to lose weight, it has a ripple effect and increases the chances by similar percentages that the other person will start to lose weight. So the take away for employer groups? Changing the health culture at your organization can make a difference! Here at Integra Employer Health, we have first hand proof of how “champions” can motivate others toward healthier lifestyles. Here are two great examples: Merle Gottheim RN, BSN, CCM is the team leader for our Case Management Department. She has over 19 years of direct case management experience and supervision of case management staff, and is a certified transplant coordinator. Merle is known around our home office as the encourager to staff who are on their own heath journeys. Not only does she set a great example in her own eating and exercise habits, she finds fun ways to incorporate healthy meal or snack choices into office events – more often than not, staff say her dishes are the “best”, and they want the recipes to fix for their families. Here is what Merle has to say about her health journey: “The desire to lose weight ultimately has to come from within. We each have a reason to set and achieve personal goals. For me, as many know, my mother has been a Weight Watcher instructor for almost 35 years (and she is about to turn 85), and she is a tap dancer. Needless to say, quite a role model. On the other end, my Dad was significantly overweight. Telling myself I had Dad’s genes, I ignored the weight watcher Mom’s advice for almost 30 years. As well as “advice” from others. I have always enjoyed exercising, but finally admitted to myself that I needed nutritional guidance. The passing of my Dad helped me set my personal goal. I set my mind and body on a path to reach and maintain my personal goal of being a healthier person. It was (and remains at times) a challenge. However, setting gradual and attainable goals has taught me discipline and not to be on a diet, but to eat smarter. To date, it has been five years since I started on this journey of learning to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.” Merle is a constant supporter of others’ health journey in the office, and is able to help them identify resources to aid in their journey when they ask. Corinne Lorenz is an Account Executive for Integra Employer Health. Everyone who knows her is impressed by her zest for life and her desire to do the best at every opportunity that is presented to her. Within the past 2 years, she has been on a personal health journey. She has been such an inspiration to her coworkers. Not only is she committed to her own nutritional and exercise goals, she is always encouraging others with new recipes, inviting them to exercise sessions and giving big congratulatory smiles to those coworkers who are also developing healthy lifestyle goals. Corinne says, "Working at Integra Employer Health gave me wonderful resources for information, education and encouragement. As I discovered what I really wanted for my own health after losing my mother, it was easier for me to make the changes that I need to in order to reach my health goals. My coworkers have been so supportive of me as I made changes; it really was a key motivating factor. I want to be healthy; to be able to do active things, like going to the lake, with my son; and I want to avoid chronic diseases that I have control over developing. I feel so much better since I lost weight and developed improved nutritional habits - and folks tell me I look wonderful - and they say "Hey. skinny girl!” That has been a nice by-product of this journey - when people notice how different I look, it opens the door to talk about how important health is and how we do have more control on where we are in our health than we realize. I have introduced Weight Watchers to several friends and family members. And the compliments - they aren't bad, either! They make me feel great and keep me motivated on this journey. I still have a long way to go but I know I will reach my ultimate goal!” Contact April Slappey, Integra Health and Wellness Account Executive, to discuss how Integra Employer Health can help you and your employees with worksite wellness initiatives. Personal nurse coaching for employees is also available to your employees to help them identify their unique “wants” for their health. The standard “want to lose weight” is just the first part of the goal; actually it is a strategy to achieve the real goals. Personal nurse coaches facilitate the individual tapping into their own intrinsic strength to find the real goal that will motivate them to make lifestyle changes, and sustain their commitment. We thank Merle and Corrine for sharing their goals! 1 Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: October 1998 - Volume 40 - Issue 10 - pp 843-85