This past week, my goal was to find out what other programs promoting health and fitness for older adults were out there. After having spoken with Judith Taksa Webb, I’ve become interested in raising awareness about existing programs, in addition to gathering suggestions for future programs. Wes Alles, the Director of the Health Improvement Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine, was kind enough to provide me with some insight into this question, as well as a few others I’ve been asking. In addition to directing the HIP, Wes also works with the Health Prevention Resource Center and the Stanford Health Prevention Network. The former aims to make health and wellness resources easily accessible, and the latter is a networking program for companies with wellness programs.
I was particularly interested in the work of the SHPN and in workplace wellness programs in general. Wes explained to me that the SHPN brings employees of companies in the area, such as Google and Oracle, to campus for educational seminars and research opportunities on topics related to health and wellness. Additionally, Wes spoke to me about a national program called the Wellness Council of America, where the goal is to promote workplace wellness programs across the nation. The WELCOA website also provides resources and information for employees who want to start their own workplace wellness program.
After researching workplace wellness, I was shocked by the number of companies who offer these programs to their employees. However, one group of professionals that seem to miss out completely on these workplace wellness programs are teachers, particularly those in primary education. Teachers have a responsibility to students as role models, so why would it be unimportant for schools to establish wellness programs for those role models? The No Child Left Behind initiative made it clear that math and science are a national priority, and thus, physical education has taken a back seat. However, with obesity on the rise, people have become aware of the importance of exercise and some are attempting to bring it back to schools. For example, in Rhode Island, Wes helped develop new initiatives for the YMCAs so that teachers could exhibit healthier lifestyle behaviors. This program is currently expanding in five regions of the United States, and hopefully, it will continue to grow. For more information on Wes Alles, WELCOA, HPRC or SHPN, check the “Interview Extras” section to the right.