Good mental health is fundamental to maintaining good physical health. And you want your employees to experience total worker health, correct? The mind and the body cannot be separated, which results in an inseparable relationship between physical and mental health. Even though the connections are striking, integration of the two fields in worksite wellness programming still has not occurred in any meaningful way. Worksite wellness practitioners need to understand better the connections between physical and mental health to intervene more effectively with employees to improve the outcomes in both areas.
It is important to address the integration of physical and mental health for the following reasons:
• The individual employee’s mental health status or the presence of a mental illness such as depression or anxiety can affect an individual’s ability to undertake health-promoting behaviors that address their physical health status. Therefore, it is fiscal that individuals better understand the integral link between all aspects of their health.
• Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer can profoundly impact an individual’s mental health.
• An individual’s mental health status affects their ability to participate in their treatment and recovery from a chronic disease.
• Family members and caregivers of people with chronic diseases are also affected psychologically, potentially neglecting their own health.
Integrating all aspects of health within a worksite wellness program requires partnerships and integration at multiple levels. Integration and partnerships allow the partners to leverage their strengths and resources and to work on common goals. Integration needs to occur at the program level, policy level, vendors, and potentially employer and community-based resources.
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The elements necessary to support integration include:
• Making the business case through collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the interrelationships between all aspects of employee health. The data should also show how integration and partnerships can better advance the employer’s core mission and objectives.
• Developing a champion at every level within the organization. While integration requires leadership and motivation from the top, it is best to have a champion at each level to initiate, implement, and sustain the integration.
• Forming an integration management working team to sustain the integration effort. The integration effort cannot be sustained if it is only the work of just a couple of people.
• Developing integrated interventions based on identified needs or gaps where positive outcomes and early wins can be achieved. Early on, look for simple, targeted interventions within the scope of the partners’ existing program initiatives’ missions, resources, infrastructures, and processes.
• Monitor, measure, and evaluate integrated initiatives by establishing goals, measures and collecting the appropriate data. Evaluation could include process, output, and outcome types of evaluation strategies. They could include assessing improvements in access to and satisfaction with care, services, or programming, determining the effect of policy changes on outcomes or services, and making a case for cost-benefit and/or cost-effectiveness.
Programming is one of the key areas where integration can and should be implemented. The four levels we see for physical health programming can also be applied to other health areas. These are awareness, education, lifestyle change, and policy/environmental change.
The traditional core physical health programming topics have included physical activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management. These four core programming areas also have implications for mental health as well. Prevention and self-care activities are also areas where integration can be applied. These leaps integrated programming real easy.
Good mental health is fundamental to maintaining good physical health. Ultimately, there is no health without mental health. A worksite wellness program is a necessary and ideal venue to support program integration.
Creating An Integrated Program Strategy
Since the mind and body cannot be separated, physical and mental health should not be addressed separately. My unique background qualifies me to provide you the leadership necessary to implement integrated interventions. I invite you to let me help you create your own effective, successful, and sustainable program. I specialize in mentoring worksite program coordinators and creating Done With You worksite employee health and well-being programs. You can contact me at [email protected].
Brought to you by Bill McPeck, Your Worksite Wellness Mentor. Dedicated to helping employers and worksite program coordinators create successful, sustainable employee health and well-being programs, especially in small employer settings.