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Health Promotion Practitioner: John Harris

Health Promotion Practitioner: John Harris

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Published by Lindsey Riley
John Harris (Chief Well-Being Officer and VP of Innovation at Healthways) used to be frustrated. "After 34 years in the wellness field, I watched the stats on unhealthy behaviors just get worse and worse. I felt like the guy who studied cancer for years and finally retired without a cure. Was my career for naught or did i at least advance the thinking that might someday lead to a cure?" Read More>>
John Harris (Chief Well-Being Officer and VP of Innovation at Healthways) used to be frustrated. "After 34 years in the wellness field, I watched the stats on unhealthy behaviors just get worse and worse. I felt like the guy who studied cancer for years and finally retired without a cure. Was my career for naught or did i at least advance the thinking that might someday lead to a cure?" Read More>>

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Published by: Lindsey Riley on Jul 05, 2011
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Practical solutions for healthenhancement programming
Reduce Stressors for Health Promotion Success How to Hire Wellness Employees Without Getting Burned Shared Meals Key to Better Family Nutrition 
Workers Suffering,
Finds Gallup-HealthwaysWell-Being Index
ISSN 1060-5517
 John Harris
Chief Wellness Offi cer and Vice President of Innovationat Healthways 
Health Promotion
Workers Suffering,
 John Harris (Chie Wellness Offi cerand Vice President o Innovation atHealthways) used to be rustrated.Ater 34 years in the wellness feld,I watched the stats on unhealthy behaviors just get worse and worse. Ielt like the guy who studied cancer oryears and fnally retired without a cure. Was my career or naught or did I atleast advance the thinking that mightsomeday lead to a cure?” All that changed in 2007 whenHealthways joined the Center orHealth ransormation led by ormerSpeaker o the House, Newt Gingrich.Gallup was also among the group’smembers. John recalls, “During our discussions,Healthways and Gallup expressedmutual concerns that health promotionneeded to be studied in the widercontext o well-being, with a defnedmethod or measuring it. SpeakerGingrich suggested we collaborate tofnd a solution.”Conceptualized rom that dialogue,the Gallup-Healthways Well-BeingIndex was launched in 2008, leading toa proound change not only in John’sperception about health and well-beingbut also the nation’s. “Our primary goal was to create a metric… sort o a Dow- Jones Industrial Average o well-being. We knew it could provide great insightson how to change people’s behaviorand create better programming to assistin that effort.”Using their 70+ years o pollingexpertise, Gallup assisted Healthways inselecting the best questions. o achievetheir daily goal o 1000 representativesurveys, Gallup phones approximately 26,000 Americans across the country each day. Last October, the Well-BeingIndex completed its millionth survey. Itasks questions in these domains, with acomposite score representing an averageo all 6:
Lie Evaluation
Physical Health
Emotional Health
Healthy Behavior
Work Environment
Basic Access.Tese questions assess the work environment:
Do employees eel cared about as anindividual?
Is their job role a good ft or theirstrengths?
Do they work in a trustingenvironment?
Do they eel their supervisor treatsthem like a partner rather than asubordinate?
Work Environment Reaches Record Low 
In February, the work environmentcomponent dropped to its lowestpoint in the Index’s history and hasnot substantially improved since. Johneels the economy drove much o thisdecline. “Te Index only goes back to 2008, but Gallup has inormationgoing back decades. Economies havetightened and automation has cost jobs. Tere’s more strie in the work environment. People eel more stiedand less creative.
FindsGallup-HealthwaysWell-Being Index
However, John doesn’t place theblame solely on employers. “50-60years ago everybody... right down toassembly line workers… embodied anentrepreneurial spirit. You don’t seethat any more. People have increasingly adopted an entitlement mentality. Asa result, the creativity that made thiscountry the biggest economic andindustrial power on the planet has waned. Both workers and companiesneed to rediscover those attitudes.”
Looking at the Trends
 John explains the trends: “Te scorethat’s dropped the most over time is‘collaborative supervision.’ Te work environment has gotten more dog-eat-dog, unemployment is at recordhighs, and jobs are less plentiul.Supervisors can get away with beingless collaborative and more command-and control-oriented. Since employeesneed the job, they put up with morerestrictive management styles.”“Employees’ ability to work to theirstrengths actually trended up. As the workorce got thinner, businessestightened their belts. Since there isless oversight people can use theirstrengths more. Being satisfed with the job dropped slightly, probably due todeclines in collaborative management. Yet having a trusting work environment stayed almost exactly level over the 3 years.” John emphasizes that the Well-BeingIndex extends beyond the work environment, but positive scores in allareas contribute to a healthy workplace.“Te best work environments makean effort to inuence all 6 domains.It starts with changing the culture.oo oten we see wellness programsbut no supportive policies such as nosmoking, a beneft plan design thatpromotes prevention, or a physicalplant that encourages movement. Yetmanagement wonders why peoplearen’t making much use o the healthpromotion program. When it comes to liestyle, Johndiscovered ascinating correlationsamong the domains. “For instance, we’ve learned that or every 15 minuteso commute time, employees’ angergoes up, the amount o stress they experience increases, their rest perday decreases, exercise levels go down,healthy eating goes down, and obesity rates go up. Few organizations havestopped to think what they can doabout that and what it would mean totheir employees’ overall well-being.“We also know that i people scorepoorly in the work environment, 31%o them report being angry or most o the previous day. Put into perspective,that level o anger is on par withthe 100 poorest counties in the US,as well as the troubled countries o Sierra Leone and Haiti. I employeesare already angry when they come to work, what’s the likelihood they’ll eelthe necessary trust to get any beneftrom a health promotion program? Wellness managers need to look artherupstream in employees’ lives to createan environment that osters healthy change. Use the 6 domains as areas o  well-being in your ramework. While he doesn’t see major differencesin well-being across occupations, John notes that sel-employed peopleconsistently score better than anybody else. “Tis is really about control. Eventhough owning a business is stressul,you wake up every day knowing youare in control and have the opportunity to chart your own destiny. Tere’ssomething liberating about that.” A Gallup study perormedindependently (using Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Indexdata) showed a demonstrably lowersatisaction level among union workerscompared to nonunion workers. John theorizes, “Bargaining unitsoten cultivate more o a contentious‘them versus us’ environment. O course, it’s also possible that some workplaces weren’t riendly to workersto begin with and thus needed unionrepresentation.”“Te bottom line is we know that acollaborative environment — wheremanagement and workers voluntarily partner together, employees eelchallenged, and everyone has theresources to get the job done — createsthe best possible culture with thehighest well-being.
What the Index Meansto Wellness Professionals
 John advises wellness proessionalsto avoid one-size-fts-all workplace wellness programs. “Considerdemographic age bands when makingprogramming decisions. We looked at18-29 year-olds and how they perceivetheir work environment; they routinely rate it as not so good. Tey’ve recently entered the workorce and realize a
John emphasizesthat the Well-BeingIndex extendsbeyond the work environment, butpositive scores inall areas contributeto a healthyworkplace.The bottom lineis we know thata collaborativeenvironment …creates the bestpossible culturewith the highestwell-being.

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