Employees of Blue Hill Memorial Hospital are becoming more physically fit by participating in “Move and Improve,” a wellness program of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS). Move and Improve was established in 1997, and is also available at no cost to local businesses, communities, and schools. The program is Web-based, and has reached 100,000 participants in over 400 Maine towns, 19 states and a handful of international sites.
The EMHS Move and Improve program encourages participants to engage in moderate physical activity, such as walking, over a 12-week period. This year’s program started on March 4 and will conclude on May 26. “All behavioral change is incremental,” says David Wheaton, director of human resources for Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. “Programs like Move and Improve encourage us to establish healthy habits, and to meet personal goals.” Wheaton notes that some employees are inspired by a healthy competition with colleagues, while others prefer a more private and individualized approach. “It’s very important that employee wellness programs remain flexible, to meet the needs and preferences of individuals,” he says.
“Employers today understand that wellness programs are important and can affect the bottom line of any organization,” says Wheaton. “Physical activity is very important to helping employees maintain their health, and overcome the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. It’s important to remember that chronic diseases affect everyone in an organization, because they are associated with a higher risk of absenteeism. In addition, chronic diseases translate into increased insurance utilization, which drives up the costs for even the healthiest employees and their family members.”
Wheaton adds that employees in many different industries are working longer hours in a more sedentary manner than ever before due to technological advances in the workplace. Increased job demands and levels of stress make the need for physical activity in the workplace even more necessary. Hospitals and other organizations with shift workers need to pay special attention to the healthcare needs of their employees. Research indicates that employees like nurses who work nights, or extended shifts, face special risks.
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital employees participate in other community wellness activities, including the hospital’s 5K family-oriented Fun Run in August and a “Move It to Lose It” program of the Healthy Island project. A number of employees are also benefitting from the fitness equipment and instruction at the Blue Hill YMCA at Tradewinds.
Community members who are interested in the Move and Improve program can visit www.moveandimprove.org or they can “like” the program on Facebook for more information. Community members are welcome to join the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital Move and Improve site and entire families can participate. Interested individuals can also call 374-3453 for more information.