Takeaways From 2017 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit

Thank you to those who attended the 2017 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit at the beginning of the month. We hope you enjoyed the fantastic keynote speakers, breakout sessions and exhibitors. As the largest gathering of wellness professionals in Indiana, we strive to provide an exceptional experience to all who attend.

Wellness Summit

The summit connected more than 400 Indiana professionals with an opportunity to network and learn from others. I enjoyed honoring our 19 new AchieveWELL organizations, learning best practices and meeting dedicated wellness leaders from across the state.

Over the last several days, I have reflected on my key takeaways from the event and narrowed it down to these four items:

1) Wellness isn’t about the program; it’s about the people: Wellness champions should not get too hung up on implementing wellness programs, as the “program” is only the beginning. To truly effect change, wellness champions need to keep the employee (not ROI or reduced health care costs) at the center of all efforts.Stretch

2) Wellness requires top leadership support supplemented by grassroots efforts: Leaders must communicate the value, motivate the employees, link wellness to overall business goals and “walk the walk”. At the same time, employees need to drive efforts from the bottom up. Initiatives created and led by them will have a greater chance of buy-in.

hygiene kit

3) Workplace wellness efforts should go beyond the four walls of the organization to reach the community: An emphasis on wellness within the organization is important, yet the value of strong community wellness and employer support of communities cannot be overstated. Community initiatives should move beyond only financial support to truly engage employees.

4) The evolution of wellness: These elements of wellness – mental, physical, purpose, community and financial well-being – continue to be the backbone of a sustainable and comprehensive workplace wellness program. The wellness conversation continues to evolve, however, as workplaces look to address employee well-being as it relates to food insecurity, housing crises, workplace violence, diversity and substance abuse.

Jennifer Pferrer is the executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana. Find out more about the Wellness Council of Indiana at www.wellnessindiana.org.

Nominate Workplace Safety Champions for 2018 Awards

Do you know what makes someone an “Everyday Safety Hero”? Here are some qualifications to look for:

safety in a warehouse

  • Safety and Health Leadership – Leadership in advocacy of worker safety and health initiatives which are above and beyond the traditional scope of one’s position
  • Innovation in Safety and Health – Development of innovative practices and procedures that reduce occupational hazards or risk
  • Promotion of Teamwork – Encouragement of team safety awareness, communications, and advocacy of safe and healthy workplace
  • Hazard Identification and Correction – Encouragement of improved safety self-audits, incident reporting, and other practices which lead to hazard reduction

If you recognize these traits in someone you know, nominate them for the Everyday Safety Hero award! The awards will be announced during the Governor’s Workplace Safety Awards luncheon at the annual Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo on March 14, 2018.

Nominees aren’t required to be safety or health professionals to be eligible; the award is designed to recognize those who are contributing to health and safety excellence in the workplace. Fill out a nomination form here.

Nominations are also open for the 2018 Governor’s Workplace Safety Awards (GWSA). This award recognizes Hoosier workplaces that instill a culture of employee safety and health. All Indiana workplaces are eligible for the awards. To qualify, nominees must be deemed free of compliance disputes concerning all applicable local, state and federal statutes and regulations. Find the application form here.

All submissions are due by January 19, 2018. Download application forms at www.insafetyconf.com/awards.

Ball State: New Clinical Trials Examine How Exercise Helps Us Down to Our Molecules

Todd Trappe (left) and Scott Trappe (right) work on a research project at Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory.

Ball State University will partner with two other major research institutions as part of a national project to uncover how exercise changes the body on a molecular level, which could lead to people engaging in more targeted and optimized activities.

Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) will form one clinical trial site with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Exercise Medicine and the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes in Orlando, Florida. Their work is part of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans program (MoTrPac), which will be financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund.

The three partners will share a projected $6.6 million over six years, 2017-23, as part of a $170 million NIH investment for the largest, most complex and highly coordinated human exercise physiology training study in the field’s history.

“The NIH initiative is a moonshot opportunity for the exercise community, and the Human Performance Laboratory is honored to be part of the team,” said Scott Trappe, the John and Janice Fisher Endowed Chair of Exercise Science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory in Ball State’s newly formed College of Health. “This is a new frontier that will move the field forward to better understand the health benefits of exercise.”

Under the $170 million project, 19 grants will support researchers working around the country, including seven clinical trial sites and several analytical sites to collect samples from people of different races, ethnic groups, sex, ages and fitness levels.

“We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health; however, we still do not understand why,” NIH director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. “The development of a so-called molecular map of circulating signals produced by physical activity will allow us to discover, at a fundamental level, how physical activity affects our health.

Under the national research initiative, researchers will partner to develop plans to recruit people for clinical trials, identify how to analyze tissue samples and select animal models to best replicate human studies.

Investigators across the country will recruit a total of about 3,000 healthy men and women of different fitness levels, ages, races and ethnicities. Each clinical site will enroll and study 450 to 500 participants. Researchers will collect blood, urine and tissue samples from the volunteers, who will perform resistance or aerobic exercises as part of the national study.

During the first year, clinical site teams will finalize plans and responsibilities. Trappe said HPL will quickly ramp up operations, including adding more researchers and post-doctoral students, to begin work in 2017. He will be a co-director of the test site; Todd Trappe, a Ball State exercise science professor, will be a co-principal investigator for the site.

Toby Chambers, a first-year doctoral student in Ball State’s human bioenergetics program, believes the NIH project underscores the national reputations Ball State and HPL have developed.

“As a doctoral student in the Human Performance Laboratory, I am really excited about the learning opportunities that will result from the research team’s involvement,” he said. “The unique opportunities this presents to the research team are why individuals, like myself, continue to be attracted to the HPL at Ball State.”

Interim Committee Votes Down License Compact, Approves Debt Forgiveness Program

The second meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health was held recently. Committee members first heard testimony regarding a multi-state nurse licensure compact, which would allow nurses to practice in different states without obtaining another license. Kentucky is the only border state that is a member of the compact. If legislation is passed in Indiana to participate in the compact, the adoption of any rules by the commission for the compact would be binding on Indiana. The attorney general’s office addressed legal concerns for the compact. The Public Health Committee voted to not recommend the adoption of a multi-state nurse license compact by a 14-0 vote.

The committee also entertained discussion about forgiveness of student loans for dentists and dental hygienists accepting Medicaid reimbursement. The IU School of Dentistry provided information on the debt burden of both resident and non-resident IU dental grads. The combined average debt is a little more than $189,000 upon graduation. In addition, only 16 of Indiana’s 92 counties had an adequate supply of dentists to service Indiana Medicaid patients – suggesting that significant gaps may exist in Indiana’s oral health care safety net for both urban and rural communities. A loan forgiveness program was proposed that would support six to eight dentists and two to three dental hygienists in high need Medicaid areas by forgiving some of the debt if a four-year commitment was made. The program was approved by the committee unanimously.

Health Means Business for Indiana’s Economy

tom hironsThe improvement in Indiana’s economic environment is an outstanding success story. The series of top 10 business climate rankings from respected national sources is a tribute to the work of many throughout our state.

The same broad-based, dedicated effort is required in one very important area in which the state is not faring well in national comparisons. And if we don’t finally make some significant advances, those sought-after employers and their talented employees might not find Indiana to be such a great place to work and live.

The inferior health of our workforce – and overall population – is no secret. In the 2015 Report Card measuring progress on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, two rankings stood out in a negative manner: 39th in adult smoking rate (despite a four percentage point improvement from the prior measurement) and 42nd in adult obesity.

In the most recent America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation, Indiana’s behaviors (physical activity in addition to smoking and obesity) and outcomes (diabetes, cardiovascular deaths and cancer deaths) fare no better.

Health Means Business. That is a statement and the title of an upcoming event intended to promote business-led community health initiatives. As the Wellness Council of Indiana has been advocating, a healthier Indiana is vital in recruiting and retaining employees, reducing health care costs, limiting absenteeism and increasing productivity.

Details are coming soon on a new Indiana Healthy Community Initiative – modeled after the Wellness Council’s AchieveWELL process for employers – that will allow towns/cities/counties to lead collaborative efforts to improve the health of their citizens.

Indiana is one of 10 stops on a national Health Means Business tour. The Indiana Chamber Foundation is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the February 5 event. We see this as just one of many steps to putting Indiana on a healthier road and keeping our state among the nation’s business leaders.

Tom Hirons, president and CEO of Hirons, is the 2016 Indiana Chamber of Commerce chairman of the board.

Maple Leaf Farms: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Wellness

Christy_BobWhen Maple Leaf Farms’ facility took over the space occupied by an old elementary school in the small town of Leesburg, the building was nearly entirely gutted and changed, but one room remained the same: the gymnasium.

With the on-site gym and fitness center already in place and remodeled, Bob Christy, benefits manager, began to set forth a competitive wellness plan with a little help from the Indiana Chamber.

Chuck Gillespie, executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana, provided a wellness consultation to Maple Lead Farms to help the company determine how to move forward with its wellness program and answered questions from employees.

“I would highly recommend the consultation,” Christy asserts. “I think it should be a requirement. You need to do it once a year and have somebody (from the Council) talk to your whole group.”

For the past year and a half, Christy says Maple Leaf Farms has done “everything from poker walks to health challenges to biometric screenings.” The business’ efforts have earned it a Three-Star AchieveWELL certification from the Wellness Council of Indiana.

“When I started, (it took about the first year) to get most of the health programs set up,” Christy says. “Before that, the wellness program was kind of nonexistent. I spoke at the first annual meeting on portions … and that’s when I really got started.”

A wellness program that once was “nonexistent” now even has its own jackets – emblazoned with the words “Wellness Protection Program” and a picture of a duck, a very important symbol for the company.

Maple Leaf Farms is a family-owned business that raises and processes ducks; today it boasts 17 locations. The wellness plan now extends to all employees, regardless of their whereabouts, and each year, Christy spends two weeks on the road encouraging employees to complete biometric screenings and the Anthem health assessment.

Because Maple Leaf Farms leads the nation in the duck market, it often works with a lot of celebrity chefs and cooking initiatives. With its large kitchen and focus on healthy eating, Christy saw an opportunity to promote healthy eating through lunch-and-learns or quick dinners, meal prep demonstrations, vending machines with nutritious options and the upcoming fresh fruits on Fridays.

“We’re trying to do ‘Fruitful Friday,’” Christy explains. “We eat so much food here because there are always things going on in the kitchen.”

The wellness program continues to grow, with presentations from nutritionists and dieticians, new partnerships with the Warsaw YMCA and the potential of on-site chair massages. Maple Leaf Farm’s partnership with the Chamber and its attendance at Chamber conferences has improved its offerings for employees.

“The biggest thing with this (Chamber) membership is the resources that they have,” Christy says. “It’s some of the best you can get. It’s in Indiana, and it’s about Indiana. These people all work here just like us, and we deal with the same laws, the same tax codes, the same everything. It is about Indiana.

Q & A: Cultivating a Wellness Culture Shift

domination concepts with apples

Linda LeCour is the health and wellness manager – North America at Taghleef Industries in Rosedale. I interviewed her about the company’s continued push to enhance the wellness of its staff. (Look for the full story about companies encouraging wellness in the July/August edition of BizVoice.)

Indiana Chamber: What prompted Taghleef Industries’ increased focus on wellness and healthy workplace snacking?

Linda LeCour: We analyzed our claims data to identify the biggest health issues that are contributing to our costs. Around 2010 we really started to pay attention to the numbers and seeing what we could do to move the needle. Our health care costs were going up, our renewal rates were high. Rather than shifting the cost to the employees, there was more and more interest in how an employee’s lifestyle impacts the costs that we incur at work.

IC: What was the process like for making the change to healthier snacking and food sales?

LC: We don’t have any cafeterias in our plants, and we’re a 24/7 operation, our employees work 12-hour shifts. We are 20 minutes away from any restaurants. Up until last summer, we had traditional vending machines. The employees would often refer to them as “Wheels of Death,” because they recognized that the foods in there were not the healthiest choices, but they’re kind of a captive audience when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Fox Canteen is our vendor, and I was talking to them about how we could provide healthier choices for our employees. They had implemented a new system at a couple other locations in the Wabash Valley and thought it would be profitable enough for us to do that at Taghleef. It’s called Avenue C. Basically it’s a vending service where everything is out in the open. It’s like going into a convenience store where you can actually open the door, take out the product, and look at the nutrition label, if you want and decide whether or not you want to eat that and put it back if you don’t like it.

IC: What is key to making a change like this work?

LC: Our goal is to treat people like adults and let them make decisions, not necessarily just wipe out any product that’s not within the healthy standard. We’re saying, ‘Here’s your healthier choices, here’s some that aren’t so healthy if you want to incorporate that into your overall food choices for the day.’

IC: Are you starting to see a culture shift?

LC: One day an employee came to me tongue-in-cheek, pointing a finger saying, ‘It’s all your fault. You need to come see what everyone is bringing in for our birthday parties now.’ I went over there and there were fruits and vegetables and healthy foods that people were starting to bring in as a result of education and awareness and realizing people need to have healthy choices.

Weighing In on Eating Disorders

“I’m not hungry.”

This phrase evokes heartache, frustration and fear for families battling anorexia nervosa. Food becomes foe. And the driving force is a need for control.

National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week from February 23-March 1 will raise awareness of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

NEDA provides startling facts about eating disorders. Among them:

  • Females with anorexia between ages 15 to 24 are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than all other causes of death.
  • 10 million males in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.
  • 42% of first through third graders want to be thinner.

View common warning signs.

“I’m not hungry.”

The transition from middle school to high school is daunting for most teens. Imagine attending a different school – in a new state – your freshman year. That was my sister’s experience in the 1980s. Back then, eating disorders didn’t receive the media attention that they do today. The warning signs weren’t as easy to detect.

That’s why we didn’t realize at first that my sister was starving herself.

There were rituals. She cut food into tiny pieces (it tricks your mind into becoming full) and obsessively baked (but refused to partake). She only used certain dishes. She said she was eating when she wasn’t. All the while, she poured energy into exercise and academics and maintained a 4.0 GPA (perfectionism is often a sign of anorexia).

It was a long road, but my sister overcame anorexia with the unwavering support of my parents and by realizing that some things in life are out of our control. Today, she’s happy, she’s healthy and she’s an inspiration to me.

There is hope.

Ignorance is NOT Bliss When Your Health is Involved

Since I’ve come to the Chamber and especially since the Wellness Council of Indiana came on board in early 2011, I’ve gotten to research, discuss and write about some interesting health and wellness subjects – many of those focusing on the increasing number of workplace wellness programs and their benefits.

Our internal wellness program includes a walking club, weekly yoga practice, flu shots, health screenings, informational meetings and more. A few weeks ago, we had our annual health screenings, which include height, weight, a flexibility test, blood pressure check and fasting glucose and lipid panel (cholesterol).

The nice part of it is that you get the results back almost immediately and can talk with a nurse about your individual numbers and what things you can work on to help lower the bad numbers or raise the good ones.

I realized I possessed health data on myself going back to 2010. Instead of letting those numbers lurk in the depths of my filing cabinet, and being the nerd I am, I decided to chart and compare each year to see the physiological changes that were taking place. I got a rude awakening: All I had to do was look at my numbers to stop kidding myself that my casual dieting and making excuses to skip the gym wasn’t doing damage to my health.

That year when I’d lost 13 pounds and was exercising regularly and eating healthy foods and was taking better care of myself because I was pregnant was the year my numbers were nearly perfect.

Back then, I was doing for my unborn child absolutely everything I could do to keep her healthy and growing and to give her the best start in life possible. Even today, I’m a fanatic about what she eats (mostly – sometimes the greeter at Home Depot with a box of suckers is just going to win me over by keeping my two-year-old content) because I want her to be healthy and grow up so strong.

So, then, why am I not doing the same for myself? After watching family members struggle with heart disease and diabetes, I don’t want to have to force my child to watch me or her father go through the same fate.

Take a real analytical look at your numbers. Don’t do it for your workplace wellness program (although you’ll feel better at work and your employer will thank you for controlling your health care costs and being more attentive at work), do it for yourself. Your doctor should readily share any of your health records with you if you simply request them.

Don’t have any numbers? It’s never too late to get a few vials of blood drawn and find out what’s really going on inside your body and start being proactive about the results.

Time to Come Down from America’s Sugar High

I hate going to the dentist.

And despite my dentist and her staff being pleasant people who are incredibly understanding of my bizarre anxiety about getting my teeth cleaned – it’s not a place I’ll ever feel excited to go.

On a trip there in May, the hygienist informed me that diet soda has more acidic properties than Mountain Dew. And, if you drink a sugary drink you should drink it as quickly as possible and then swish your mouth out with water or milk, because letting it sit on your teeth causes cavities (you might say, “duh,” but I thought my twice-a-day brushing was doing enough to prevent that – and I just had my first ever cavities filled, so apparently it’s news to me).

At that, I stopped drinking soda. All of it: diet, regular, lemon-lime. Done.

Just a few weeks later during a trip to the doctor, I discovered I had lost 12 pounds without changing my diet or exercise routine, aside from cutting out the soda. Woah!

In late July, the Associated Press ran a story about Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc. experiencing a decline in soda sales for the second quarter in North America. The story notes that according to Beverage Digest, “per capita soda consumption in the U.S. has been slipping steadily since 1998 amid concerns that sugary drinks fuel weight gain.”

But, it’s not just about weight gain. And, it’s not just about soda – though that’s certainly where a number of Americans are getting their increased sugar.

Researchers out of the University of Utah recently completed a study on the sugar levels in mice and gave the mice a diet which had 25% of calories coming from sugar (incidentally, that’s a “safe” recommendation by federal government standards – about the same amount of sugar you’d get from three cans of soda per day) and published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers found that increase in sugar in mice led to male mice producing less offspring and defending fewer territories than their counterparts. Worse yet, female mice died at almost twice the rate of their counterparts that were fed a different diet.  

So, it’s not just about weight gain, decreased fertility and lethargy. It’s about death.

And whether your sugar is coming from soda or eating cookie dough (which you really shouldn’t do anyway: salmonella!), it’s time to cut back. My personal motivation to cut down on sugar is a combination of weight loss, good health and avoiding that darn dental chair – what’s yours?