February 13, 2017

Kaiser Permanente 'hearts' workplace wellness

Kaiser Permanente is recognized for its commitment to the health and wellness of its more than 220,000 employees and physicians.

The GoKP Summer Games Team Challenge text treatment at the top, below are three women in workout clothes in a park jumping up with arms upraised

While the world was swept up in Olympic fever last summer, Shelia Chado, a Kaiser Permanente primary care Licensed Practical Nurse, was busy organizing another type of contest.

Supported by Kaiser Permanente’s Go KP Summer Games Physical Activity Team Challenge, Chado spearheaded the inaugural “Southwest Summer Games” at Kaiser Permanente’s Southwest Medical Offices in Littleton, Colorado. Drawing on resources made available to all Kaiser Permanente employees through Kaiser Permanente’s national Healthy Workforce program, and inspired by the Olympic athletes in Rio de Janeiro, Chado customized the Go KP Summer Games program to harness her colleagues’ competitive spirit and put wellness front and center.

Shelia Chado, a Kaiser Permanente primary care Licensed Practical Nurse points to a chart at a meeting
Shelia Chado, Licensed Practical Nurse

“It became very competitive in a fun, friendly way,” Chado said of the Challenge, which involved weekly tallies of each team’s workout efforts, followed by a summer’s-end medal ceremony.

The Summer Games also featured challenges that encouraged workplace safety conversations and biometric screenings, and later led to an ongoing game of “tag” that motivated team members to take quick, five-minute breaks to mentally recharge.

“I saw a lot of people taking the time to walk with each other on our campus, as well as eating more healthily,” Chado said. “A few people even said they lost some weight.”

Silver award badge for American Heart Association award badge for companies, workplace health achievement

The Summer Games Team Challenge is one example of Kaiser Permanente’s profound investment in employee workplace wellness — a commitment that was recently honored with a silver-level recognition in the Workplace Health Achievement Index from the America Heart Association (AHA). This science-based and evidence-informed measurement assesses workplace health programs based on several criteria, including on-site nutrition policies, strategic wellness plans, internal communications around health and access to resources that support healthy habits.

In addition to AHA’s recognition, Kaiser Permanente’s workplace wellness programs were also commended in 2016 with the National Business Group on Health’s Platinum Award for Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles ®, and with the Edington CBIZ Next Practice Award for the second consecutive year.

According to Kathy Gerwig, vice president of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness and Environmental Stewardship Officer of Kaiser Permanente, “Our aim to have the healthiest workforce in health care is about engaging with employees to learn more about what they want, what they think is critical. It’s about taking a strategic approach that isn’t just about one particular element, but about looking at health holistically.”

As we observe American Heart Month in February, Kaiser Permanente’s robust efforts to improve employee heart health, lower hypertension and improve cardiovascular fitness are particularly relevant. Highlights of these efforts include:

  • More than 58,000 Kaiser Permanente employees have participated in the AHA’s annual Heart Walks since 2006, raising $4.3 million at 42 walk locations around the U.S.
  • The creation in 2015 of Go KP, the online workforce wellness program for all Kaiser Permanente employees that provides tips and tools, motivation and social features to help employees get fit and stay healthy.
  • Pre-recorded webinars on topics like “Weight Loss for Busy People,” “Trendy Foods, Trendy Diets” and “Whole Food Plant-Based Eating.”
  • Access to wellness coaching to develop strategies for reducing stress, becoming more active, managing weight or quitting tobacco use — a tool that a recent Kaiser Permanente study showed can aid significant weight loss.

In Littleton, many of the healthy practices Chado helped initiate with her colleagues during the Southwest Summer Games have persisted in the months since the competition ended, with a new view on the different forms wellness can take.

“Health and wellness is not just about working out,” Chado said. “It’s also spirit and mind.”