Faculty presented on their efforts to create healthier workplaces
On February 9, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus held the first lecture of this year’s Transforming Health Care lecture series, an annual four-part event that highlights some of the many incredible advancements in health care taking place on campus. “Creating Healthier Workplaces: New Approaches to Employee Wellness,” was an opportunity for alumni, friends and community members to hear about the pioneering work of our outstanding faculty in the field of workplace well-being. The lineup of speakers included Lee Newman, MD, MA; Lili Tenney Starr, MPH and Matt Vogl, MPH.
Preventing chronic illness begins in the workplace
At the Center for Health, Work & Environment in the Colorado School of Public Health, Director Lee Newman and his team are partnering with businesses to improve population health by promoting health and safety in the workplace. “We’re spending most of our hours at work,” said Dr. Newman. “There’s an opportunity there to address health and well-being, health literacy and behaviors while helping employers keep their workers safe.”
The biggest and most costly health concerns, Dr. Newman shared, include chronic illnesses such as stress, depression, anxiety and drug addiction. The center is helping mitigate these issues through their training, research and public health practice initiatives that engage employers, occupational health and safety professionals, students and workers.
Another focus at the center is understanding how factors such as work-related injuries or chronic illness among employees impact their productivity. With these factors in consideration, employers can better fit the job to the worker, ensure workers do their jobs efficiently and safely and reduce costs.
Collaborating to build a culture of health and safety
Center for Health, Work & Environment Deputy Director Lili Tenney Starr explained how the center’s Health Links™ program is building a culture of health and safety in the workplace. The signature program is making this possible by cultivating an understanding of the links between human capital and sustainability in business leadership. Backed by the expertise of the center’s researchers and community advisors, the Health Links™ team provides assessments of organizations’ health and safety programs, and collaborates to create actionable goals that those organizations can pursue in order to create healthier workplaces.
A focus on small businesses allows Health Links™ to make a large impact on workplace health and safety in Colorado. The program has reached organizations in more than 30 counties and invested more than $80,000 in small businesses to advance their workplace health and safety programs and infrastructure. The Center for Health, Work & Environment is also currently developing the largest study of the actions small businesses are taking to impact worker productivity, health and well-being. The results will help the center improve how business leaders approach workplace health and safety programs in Colorado and beyond.
Educating future business leaders
Under the direction of Executive Director Matt Vogl, MPH, the National Mental Health Innovation Center (NMHIC) is working to change how business is addressing the ever growing mental health care needs of U.S. workers.
Vogl said, “Everyone is affected by mental health conditions in the workplace—it’s business leaders, teachers, dentists and other professionals. Everyone has a role to play in improving mental health in the workplace, including the CU system.”
As Colorado’s newest center dedicated to improving mental and behavioral health around the state and across the country, the NMHIC is delivering on that promise. The center’s partnership with CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business focuses on building students’ knowledge of mental health in the workplace throughout campus academics and activities. In this way, the NMHIC hopes to help future business leaders understand the role mental health will play in their professional lives.
Part of this effort has involved sponsoring case competitions for undergraduates. These competitions challenge student teams to present solutions to complex business scenarios centered around mental health in the workplace. The NMHIC has sponsored two competitions during the 2016/17 school year, in which more than 700 students have participated to learn about and develop solutions to mental health cases.
Additionally, the NMHIC is working with Leeds to re-imagine standard business curriculum and introduce mental health in the workplace courses. With the oversight of the NMHIC, Leeds is currently pilot-testing seven different courses in the existing curriculum. NMHIC is in talks with MIT, the University of Denver and other universities, the NMHIC to replicate this program and help an untold number of future business leaders prepare for potential mental health concerns in their workplaces.
These talented faculty and staff at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus are helping to ensure that happy and healthy workplaces are the norm. With this goal in mind, they are enhancing the physical and mental well-being of employees around the state, the region and beyond. Our faculty members’ successful programs are just a handful of the many exciting advancements taking place at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
The next event in the Transforming Health Care lecture series takes place Tuesday, May 15. “Harnessing the Immune System: The Next Medical Frontier,” invites attendees to learn about how our researchers are harnessing the power of the human immune system to prevent and fight disease.
For more information, or to RSVP, visit cuanschutzlecture.org.