Making a Difference:
The CommonHealth of Kentucky
What people really want, I have found, is to learn about their peers and discover their own Kentucky examples of models that work.
Workplace Wellness Coordinator
When Teresa Lovely hears that people think she’s out to “make people be healthy,” she doesn’t take offense. In fact, she’s glad her message is getting out and gaining acceptance.
“More and more research shows that it is in employers’ best economic interest to help employees improve their health,” said Lovely, who works in a dual role as worksite wellness coordinator for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
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“We have figured out in the health promotion field that it no longer works for you to have a program and expect people to come to you. You have to meet people where they are. You have to focus on schools and workplaces.”
Lovely, who this year has made about 80 major presentations to businesses across the state on how to develop worksite wellness programs, has recently turned to KET’s The CommonHealth of Kentucky series to augment her on-site presentations.
“Employers are really ready to address health, more than they ever have in the past,” said Lovely, who previously was employed by Logan Aluminum in Western Kentucky as its on-site wellness manager—and was herself featured by CommonHealth in its segment on workplace wellness.
“I’m always looking for more ways to get the message across,” she said from the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce headquarters, the home base for her statewide activities.
“The short, strong visuals that are professionally done really make an impact—and I knew instantly, the first time I showed the clips, that they’d made an impact,” she said.
“They told their story, and I knew the participants would relate to what was being said because Logan Aluminum is a Kentucky company. That’s really powerful because there’s always national resources you can point to, and there’s national examples. But what people really want, I have found, is to learn about their peers and discover their own Kentucky examples of models that work.”
Lovely“s use of CommonHealth was encouraged by KET’s community engagement director, Judy Flavell. When the two met at a conference, Flavell suggested that Lovely extend CommonHealth’s reach beyond the television screen. That could best be done, she said, by putting its message before decision-makers such as company executives and human-resource managers who are motivated to make changes in their company and hungry for the tools to get started.
The message of CommonHealth is relatively simple: Lifestyle choices that people make every day affect their own long-term health and eventually the economic well-being of the entire state.
Kentucky, Lovely points out, is an unhealthy state, a national leader in smoking, obesity, and cancer and heart-disease deaths. With rising health-care costs the number one concern among employers, she said, the business community has a vested interest in helping employees achieve healthier lifestyles.
In the CommonHealth Logan Aluminum segment, employees demonstrate how they work in teams to set health goals related to weight, tobacco use, and time spent in physical activity. Things started a little slowly, with only 10 employees meeting their goals in the first year. But by 2004, 99 percent of the plant’s employees were participating in the program—and in 2004, more than 800 of them achieved their goals.
Those are real results, Lovely said, which get the attention of those decision-makers.
“Wellness programs have really become important now, because of the economy,” she said. “Years ago, what we saw in wellness programs were that they were seen as an ‘extra thing,’ and if money got tight, a lot of times, that would be cut. We’re not seeing that now. They now realize they’re going to have to address health, regardless of the economy.”