Employee Wellness welcomes new coordinator

On Aug. 15, the Employee Wellness program brought in a new wellness coordinator, Raeanna Johnson.

Johnson said she hopes to continue programs already in place and reach out to the faculty and staff to better know what programs they would like to see.

“I want the faculty and staff to know that I’m here and we are always open to ideas and input,” Johnson said. “My goal as the coordinator is to try to get out more and meet with faculty and staff to get their input on what they would like to see and make this more of their program, and not necessarily just a program that is being offered to them.”

Employee Wellness seeks to offer programs that improve the overall physical, mental and emotional health of WSU employees. The program most employees take advantage of is the comprehensive health assessments, Johnson said.

Employees who participate in comprehensive health assessments are rewarded through an incentive program called Wellness Pays. The incentive program encourages participation in the assessments as well as physical fitness and stress management activities.

“We’re really lucky to have this kind of program,” said Tim Ruden, the coordinator of human performance and part of a committee that helped introduce Employee Wellness to WSU. “. . . A wellness program allows individuals to lead a healthy life. There have been countless studies that have found that employees that participate in wellness programs are sick less and more productive.”

The committee was formed in 1999 and conducted a pilot study that examined the feasibility of an employee wellness program. The program was introduced in the fall of 2000.

“Health care costs are huge,” Ruden said. “The incentive to the university is that employees who participate in the wellness program are sick less, so it cuts down on health care costs.”

One of the benefits of wellness assessments is that employees can find out through physical examinations if there is any area in their physical wellness that needs improvement.

“We can sit with them and say, ‘All right, you’ve done excellent in this area; let’s continue what we’re doing there’ or ‘We need to see a little more improvement in this area’, and so forth,” Johnson said. “The things that are the most prevalent are high cholesterol, high glucose, and these are things that are sort of precursors to cardiovascular disease.”

Johnson said that when it comes to those types of problems, although they can be solved through medication, she tries to help employees control them through stress management and physical activity. Johnson encourages employees to engage in physical activity for 30 minutes each day.

“A lot of diseases have come up through stress, so you basically have a fight-or-flight response to stress,” she said. “And if you don’t have a proper way to manage that response, that’s when you start seeing issues with high blood pressure and cholesterol.”

Wellness assessments are currently held in Room 112 of the Swenson Gym. Employees can schedule their appointments online. The Wellness Center is located in the Swenson Gym but is currently under construction. Yoga and Pilates classes will begin on Sept. 16 in the new addition to the gym.