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There are many reasons for addiction treatment and prevention programs to promote the health of their staff, and for providers to take care of themselves.
Organizations with a staff wellness program can have an edge in recruiting and retaining their workforce. Also, when staff in health professions model healthy behavior, it reinforces positive messages to clients; and on the contrary, when staff model unhealthy behaviors, it can have a demotivating effect on clients.
For more information, see training resources, education resources, events in the calendar, success stories at the bottom of the page, Library items in the sidebar.
Note: any given tool that is generally health-promoting might work differently for given individuals, who each have unique combinations of health conditions, metabolism, social and physical environments, ethnic/cultural/personal history.
Elements of Health and Wellness
Wellness and health are variously described as feeling good, with vitality and a sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Since 1948, the World Health Organization has defined health as "complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"* Thus, the promotion of health involves positive feelings in multiple elements of life.
*Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
Challenges to Health and Wellness
- Physical and Behavioral Health conditions:
- The stresses of modern life can be exacerbated by work in addictions, where staff address life-or-death situations often.
- In addition, since many people who work in addictions are themselves in recovery, particular attention must be given to supporting their recovery. See Wellness and Health Promotion which has supplemental health and wellness tips for people in recovery.
- Many physical conditions, from diabetes to allergies to heart disease, require special management of nutrition, activity and sometimes environment.
- Staff as well as clients are exposed to the omnipresent Standard American Diet ("SAD"), which often makes fresh whole foods harder to obtain than highly processed ones.
- Work schedules sometimes make shopping and meal preparation difficult, and eating convenience foods, prepared foods or even restaurant foods requires careful choices.
- Healthy air, the ability to move in a healthy way (avoid sitting or lying down for hours, avoid overstressing or repetetitive motions)
Health Promotion for Staff
Health Promotion can include support for
- Healthy eating and nutrition
- Emotional Health with positive supports and stress management, for example
- mindfulness, meditation
- physical activities from running to yoga, good sleep
- changes to job structure and supervision
- Prevention of work-related physical conditions such as repetitive or physically-stressful activities
Support can be implemented in many creative ways using resources from within the organization or local businesses, or even the Benefits provider.
- Administrative elements which also help clients and the bottom line, such as:
- Regular, high quality supervision, with attention to supporting recovery as well as promoting individual career development
- Streamlined paperwork, or strategies to ensure staff have time built into their regular hours (not overtime) to complete clinical notes or other documentation. Some strategies include concurrent documentation, scheduling a particular time for documentation.
- Clear communication
- A sense of empowerment and creativity (even more than salary, turnover is driven by a lack of satisfaction and creativity)
- Ergonomic approach to workstations, culture that allows people to stand at meetings or walk briefly at least once an hour, etc.
- Wellness components
- Many health plans now include things like
- a health coach
- a discount for local gym membership
- Nutrition - People need resources with tips for shopping, label reading, and recipes as well as eating out, so they can choose:
- whole foods rather than processed foods for nutrients and fiber
- essential fatty acids (brain health and decrease inflammation; reduce relapse)
- increased plant-based foods
- appropriate levels of vitamins D and B, and folic acid
- appropriate nutrition for any other aspect of their or their family's health - for example, pregnant women might need more information about the postive impact folic acid and amino acids on babies' brain development, older people or people with additional physical health conditions or allergies/sensitivities might need specialized advice
- Yoga - Yoga or fitness onsite, led either by a staff member with experience, or agreement with a a local fitness center
- A refrigerator with healthy snacks available to staff
- Many health plans now include things like
Allow for the fact that people make change in different ways and have different goals:
- Adding something rather than take something away - crowd out less healthy foods or behaviors by adding more healthy ones, but don't focus on the removal of any
- Removing items from the environment
- Making change all at once or bit by manageable bit
- Honoring cultural norms and preferences around food, body image, and individual preferences