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Wealth of Health: Unity Health System

Health care workers spend their days and nights trying to make others feel better. Unity Health System works to ensure that its employees are well and healthy themselves.
"Our long-range goal is to have one of the healthiest workforces in the Rochester area," says Maryalice Keller, senior vice president of brand and talent management for Unity. "As a health care provider, we want to model healthy lifestyles for our staff."
Unity’s wellness initiative is administered by Renee Elwood, employee wellness coordinator. Unity partners with Fleet Feet Sports and its No Boundaries program, an introduction to walking and running for health. Both novices and experienced athletes take part.
"It’s so exciting to see people push themselves," Keller says. "First, they’re walking in a 5K event. Then they’re running in a 5K. Next they’re moving up to a 10K, then a half-marathon, then a full marathon. Their dedication is inspiring."
Unity also challenges employees to watch what they eat. More than 1,000 employees participated in the Eat Well, Live Well Challenge in 2011, with nearly 50 teams of co-workers and friends across the health system. Unity issued punch cards to track fruit and vegetable purchases in the cafeteria. Ten servings earned a free meal. Unity also reimbursed registration for a vegan cooking class offered to employees.
In-house experts also spread health messages. For example, staff pulmonologists and respiratory therapists delivered an eight-session program called Freedom from Smoking. In small groups, participants learned about medications that can help them quit as well as stress management tips and ideas for avoiding weight gain while quitting. Registration was covered for participants who attended all eight sessions.
Employees who want to squeeze a workout into the day requested an on-site gym, but with 70 locations, Unity came up with a different solution: Rochester Athletic Club instructors travel to Unity sites and deliver yoga classes, stress reduction programs, Zumba classes and Weight Watchers programs.
"We’ve got classes going on during the lunch hour and at the end of the work day, which makes it easy for our staff to participate," Keller says.
Involvement in employee wellness programs is high. Sixty-three percent of Unity’s 5,435 staff members participated in at least one program during 2011. To spread the word, Unity’s Thrive Ambassador program relies on 50 employees to serve as liaisons from the wellness program to their colleagues in all areas of the organization.
"Everyone inspires everyone else," Keller says. "If our wellness program can help our staff move the needle on their personal goals, then we’re thrilled."
6/8/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected].


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