VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, June 3, 2016

A New World of Wellness

Good morning!

Now that we've entered June, summer vacation season has officially begun and we are spending more time outdoors. It's a good time to discuss our growing efforts to promote health and wellness among our employees and students.

As I mentioned in last week's VC Notes, we have recently reorganized our UMMC Wellness Committee.  The reconstitution of the Department of Preventive Medicine during the last year, coupled with the development of the new School of Population Health and a high level of engagement across the Medical Center, are providing us with the bandwidth to build a more comprehensive and sustainable worksite wellness program.  

We will see a number of initiatives emerge from the Wellness Committee during the next year. Among them:  

  • Employee Health Risk Assessments - Collecting baseline data on the health status of employees is important for developing targeted programs and for tracking improvements over time. An anonymous, voluntary survey will be sent to all UMMC employees later this year.


  • Worksite Wellness Newsletter - A quarterly newsletter will be sent by email to all employees. This newsletter will include prevention topics, exercise tips, healthy recipes, a wellness event calendar for the quarter and other helpful wellness tools for employees.



  • Wellness Education Sessions - Educational sessions on a variety of topics are being scheduled for employees throughout the year. Sessions will be led by UMMC clinicians, health coaches with ActiveHealth Management and the University Wellness team and will range from traditional presentations to more experiential activities such as aromatherapy and on-site group exercise sessions provided free of charge.



  • Healthy_snack_vendingHealthy Vending Selections - Working with the American Heart Association, UMMC has begun making more healthy options available from vending machines.  Under this format, at least 50 percent of the selections must be considered healthy choices. The transition to healthier beverage vending is already underway.



  • A More Walkable Campus - Urban medical center campuses have historically been built more for vehicles than for pedestrians. Although four major campus construction projects have temporarily disrupted traditional walking patterns at UMMC, we are committed to building more sidewalks and walking paths for our campus community going forward. In the meantime, the Department of Physical Facilities has posted a map of campus walking routes complete with measured distances. Find it here.


As we implement these and other initiatives, we'll also be guided by a number of external benchmarking tools. One of those is the Centers for Disease Control Worksite Health ScoreCard, which we completed this year for the second time and uploaded electronically into the CDC's national database for the first time.

This tool allows organizations to measure themselves against a range of health-related standards. For example, because of our strong influenza vaccination program, UMMC scored 18 out of a possible 18 points in this category. On the other hand, we only scored 2 points out of a possible 21 on the standards associated with nutrition - such as providing comprehensive nutritional information for cafeteria selections. 

Our 2016 score of 170 out of a possible 264 for the Jackson campus put us at just above average (157 points) in our overall commitment to worksite health.  We will expect to see that score rise as we implement new programs in the coming years. As our employee wellness efforts move forward, an additional goal is for UMMC to become recognized by the Mississippi Business Group on Health as one of Mississippi's healthiest workplaces by 2018.

As a health-care institution, it's incumbent on me and our leadership to “practice what we preach” and put these programs in place for a healthier workforce. On the other hand, as individuals who are involved in teaching and providing state-of-the-art health care, it's important for each of us to model healthy behaviors for our patients and students. In particular, we should all receive regular screening exams - such as mammograms and colonoscopies - at the appropriate intervals and encourage our patients and students to do the same.

As you may know, I've also been concerned about stress in the workplace, work-life balance and increasing evidence of burnout among our caregivers.  A task force focused on assessing the problem and proposing needed solutions has just begun meeting.

There's no question that increasing physical activity will be a huge part of the answer to creating a healthier workforce and a healthier state. I recently saw a fascinating video that demonstrated how just 20 to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day produce marked improvements in joint pain, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression and perceived overall quality of life. Produced by Dr. Mike Evans, the video has been viewed 5 million times and I recommend it to you.

Finally, as we continue to transition the former Courthouse fitness locations to a medical-wellness model - all five will eventually be rebranded as University Wellness Centers - our hope is to leverage that knowledge and capability for the benefit of our campus community as well as our patients.  Stay tuned for much more on that.

The health and well-being of our patients occupies much of our daily work, but as has been rightly pointed out, somebody has to take care of the caregiver. UMMC should play a supporting role, but the star of the show is the man or woman in the mirror. The journey to A Healthier Mississippi starts with each of us.

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