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VU lauded at Global Healthy Workplace Summit

May. 29, 2014, 9:18 AM

Vanderbilt was recently recognized as an international leader in programs dedicated to employee health and safety. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt University has been named second in the world for its programs to enhance the physical and mental health and safety of its employees throughout the University and Medical Center.

Health Plus Medical Director Lori Rolando, M.D., represented the institution in Shanghai, China, recently, where she presented at the Global Healthy Workplace Awards Summit and received the runner-up designation.

“The awards program is really modeled on the World Health Organization’s Healthy Workplace model, which incorporates four different areas: personal health, workplace health, psychosocial environment and community involvement,” Rolando said.

“They look at factors such as demonstrating quality improvement, community involvement, and how the program applies to different populations and cultural and demographic differences.”

Thirty-three countries participated, with more than 80 applicants, with Vanderbilt being the only academic medical center represented as a finalist.

The programs collectively represented the best of the international business community’s ability to successfully promote good health among employees and the communities they serve.

Vanderbilt’s program, instituted in 2002, was the first of its kind for U.S. academic medical centers, and elements of the program have since been incorporated by other institutions, according to Mary Yarbrough, M.D., executive director of Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness.

TaKesha Anderson gets her blood pressure checked at last week’s Vanderbilt celebration of National Employee Health and Fitness Day. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“Internationally, the productivity of a workforce is being recognized as a success factor, and the majority of Fortune 500 companies will have strong wellness programs,” said Yarbrough, associate professor of Clinical Medicine and assistant professor of Health Policy.

“In the Medical Center, you have the issue of the patient care always coming first. On the University side, the education of students comes first. A lot of people go into these professions and give so much. But, to give their best to patients and students, and be really good at it, they have to take care of themselves. In Health and Wellness, we are here to take care of them the way they are taking care of everybody else.”

Yarbrough said the program has had widespread support across the University and Medical Center. The Go for the Gold program, for example, boasts 80 percent participation from faculty and staff.

According to Yarbrough, the Go for the Gold program incentivizes people to participate in healthy activities and, beyond that, is developing awareness and motivation skills.

“We have a number of programs that help people learn how to quit smoking, reduce weight, or control blood pressure. But, probably the most important thing about us is our environment. We have a number of initiatives that have been going on with the walking trails around campus. And working with the Nashville Mayor’s Office, we have the bike kiosks near campus.

“We have our nutrition services staff who are supporting a number of initiatives. One they are just rolling out rewards you with a free meal is if you eat from a healthy menu for so many days.”

Other team members in Health and Wellness who led efforts important to the award application include Brad Awalt, manager of Health Plus Wellness Program, Melanie Swift, M.D., director of the Occupational Health Clinic, and Jim Kendall, manager of Worklife Connections-EAP.

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