With endless possibilities for getting people together doing thousands of different activities, why is it that workplace wellness has gotten so clinical and narrow?
Here’s a locker room metaphor of Primary Prevention vs. Secondary Prevention, presented in the form of an infographic (a powerful communication tactic, by-the-way). Part of the problem with many workplace wellness programs is that they’ve drifted into practicing medicine. They’re operating almost entirely in the yellow and red areas of this chart. And they’ve done so without realizing it.
Let’s look at the various parts of this infographic:
Many wellness managers don’t make any distinction between primary and secondary prevention. Notice there are two main categories your various programs’ components can fall under. Do a color-coded audit of all your wellness activities. Which locker would they go in? Create a little color-coded map and see how much of your wellness program is to the left (blue and green) or to the right (yellow and red). The more blue and green your map, the more you’re actually keeping people healthy and preventing disease.
Ideally, I’d like to see 80% of all wellness activity on the primary prevention area. And I think most workplaces could get to that point with a two- or three-year transformation plan.
People Also Move Through These Categories
It’s important to understand that individuals can change colors. Well individuals could be in the blue category today. But, tomorrow they could be injured or diagnosed with a disease and find themselves in the red category. In most cases, they can recover over time and enjoy living in the blue or green category once again. We might say they got better. But a health scientist could describe a group of people moving from the red to the green or blue as regressing to the norm. Thus that complex term, “regression to the norm,” in this instance means some people just got better again.
Be aware that people move through this color spectrum all the time. Some moving to the right, and others to the left. That’s why a good holistic program encompasses the entire population and not just one segment of it. The best way to make your programs inclusive is to put people together with other people at work or other people in the community. Beware of spending much of your time on the red locker. Because people will either get better or they will not, regardless of your programs. The key is to try to keep as many people in the primary prevention area, the blue and green lockers.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.