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Updated 11:00 AM May 17, 2005




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Challenge sets employee health and wellness goals

The competitive spirits of some 2,000 employees of the U-M Health System (UMHS) paid off for a number of charities, while getting participants on the track toward healthier lifestyles.

The MFit Physical Activity for Life (PAL) Charity Challenge, a team-based incentive program, served as the kick-off event for the Healthy Workforce Initiative (HWI) at UMHS. The program brought together 156 teams whose members accumulated nearly 3.5 million exercise minutes and generated more than $10,000 for charity. The eight-week event provided the springboard for UMHS to energize faculty and staff into making healthier lifestyle choices.

"By taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, we increase our productivity at work, which translates into better care for patients, families and all the customers we serve," Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs, said during the PAL Charity Challenge reception May 3.

The HWI is a series of health and fitness programs that aim to increase employees' awareness of and participation in healthy activities, and improve the health of the workforce as a whole. Since the HWI began, participation in wellness programs at UMHS has increased steadily. In fiscal year 2004, there were 1,577 program participants. In this fiscal year, which will end June 30, there have been 5,181 participants thus far.

The Health System's MFit Health Promotion Division, which coordinates programs for the HWI, recently received the 2005 Healthy Workplace Platinum Award from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department. MFit received the award for its commitment to the health, well-being and quality of life of UMHS employees, and its innovative health promotion and wellness programs.

MFit also received the 2004 Silver Award by the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. The award honors workplaces that have sustained participation and/or comprehensive programs in physical fitness, health and sports.

In addition to the PAL Charity Challenge, other programs in the HWI include:

• Move, Lose, Maintain—one of MFit's most popular programs, designed to help individuals establish a healthy lifestyle through a combination of physical activity and healthy eating.

• Super Size Me: Nutrition Savvy for the Fast Food Age—a seminar that teaches the importance of considering portion size, fat, sodium and sugar content in making healthier food choices.

• Summer Exercise and Relaxation Classes—including body sculpting, step aerobics, yoga, tai chi, Pilates and more.

• Colorful Choices—a nutrition incentive program that encourages participants to eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables every day—the most important nutrition habit people can adopt for better health.

• Employee Recognition Fun Walk/Run—an outdoor event that brings Health System staff together to enjoy the Arboretum.

• Summer Energy Expo—an annual fair that provides health and fitness resources and information to faculty and staff, in combination with opportunities to dunk a manager to raise funds for charity, healthy food, healthy vendors, free chair massages and much more.

In addition, the MFit Health Promotion Division provides services for employees through the Health Education Resource Center, the Tobacco Consultation Service, the Healthy Dining Program and the Weight Management Program.

"By making health and well-being a priority for ourselves and our families, we show the community that health care is more than just our business, it's our lifestyle," Kelch says.

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