Marrakech’s Health and Wellness Program: Growing Healthier Together!

It seems like more now than ever before, there is an enormous amount of attention on health and wellness.  Every form of media has taken on the growing health epidemic in America in some way, focusing a great deal on obesity, heart health, nutrition and exercise.  While Marrakech has always acted proactively in regard to the health and safety of our consumers and employees, we had not yet taken on this larger, broader issue of health and wellness in any organized kind of way.  Many of the people with whom we work struggle daily with their weight or health conditions that we know can be alleviated with heightened awareness, education and changes in behavior. 

And so, Marrakech’s Health and Wellness Committee was born in July 2012, deriving mostly from the personal interest of a few employees.  A call was put out to all, and we now have 15 active volunteer members who are mainly direct care or management staff of Marrakech.  They are joined by the Wellness Director from our insurance broker, Creative Benefits Planning.  To join a working Committee like this is no small undertaking.  Everyone on the Committee has other jobs to do - BIG jobs to do - but have each made a commitment to making health and wellness an integral part of the Marrakech community.

For a Committee that is not yet a year old, we have managed to accomplish quite a bit and we are really proud of this. Here are just some of the things we have done or are currently planning to do:
·         Quarterly, a Health and Wellness newsletter, entitled The Well of Health, is distributed to staff throughout the organization via Marrakech email.  Printed copies are also available and staff is encouraged to share this with consumers who do not have access to Marrakech email.
·        The Committee instituted a Marrakech employee walking/running group that began on September 25, 2012 and meets at our main office every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.  Employees at our satellite sites have been encouraged to start their own walking groups at dates and times that work best for them.
·         The Committee published a Healthy Living Calendar that featured one of our programs and a healthy recipe along with some nutrition facts for each month.  It included pictures of our consumers shopping for ingredients or making and eating the actual recipes. 
·        Between January and April 2013, Marrakech had its first employee weight loss challenge.  Thirty-nine people registered and weighed in.  Throughout the challenge, we offered monthly information sessions facilitated by a naturopathic doctor and a runner/athletic coach.  We also sent weekly articles and resources out to the group to help keep them motivated and to provide helpful information as they tried to change old habits. Participants were given free registration to our Spring 5K Walk/Run, which many participated in.
·         On April 3rd, we had a “wear your sneakers to work” day to honor National Walking Day and encouraged group walks at our various sites.
·         April 22, 2013 kicked off a six-week walking/fitness challenge to encourage everyone to move a little more.  We provided trackers from the American Heart Association (AHA) and asked that people record their exercise on it each week for the six week period, through June 2, 2013.  Daily Healthy Living Tips and weekly articles (provided by the AHA) were distributed throughout the challenge.  Those who participated will be invited to a celebratory healthy lunch and prizes will be given to those who made the most progress and logged the most minutes over the six weeks.
·        Over the summer of 2013, a three-part series on nutrition and weight loss facilitated by a naturopathic physician will be offered free to employees and consumers. This may be accompanied by a new Team Weight Loss Challenge.
·         In October 2013, Marrakech will host our first Health Fair.  After surveying employees, the fair will focus on self care, nutrition and weight loss.
·        Marrakech recently applied to be considered a Fit Friendly site by the American Heart Association. 

On June 4, 2013, Marrakech was awarded the Large Employer Business of the Year Wellness Award from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Health Care Council for the work we have accomplished in this short period of time.

Changing habits and decades old learned behavior isn’t easy.  It will not happen overnight or simply because of one great campaign we implement. 

But when we hear that a staff person asked if there can be salad in addition to pizza at a meeting because of something they read from us; or an employee is excited to tell a Committee member that she has changed some of her eating and exercise habits because of the articles we sent out and feels so much better; or when several consumers and staff stop by the office from time to time to weigh themselves on the scale we have here because they are more aware and motivated now, then we know something is starting to happen.  We are moving in the right direction.

We understand that it is going to take a lot of time but we are committed to seeing this process through and helping our employees and consumers grow healthier together.

Throughout the month of June, Marrakech’s Health and Wellness Committee will be highlighted on our Facebook page.  We kicked this off by posting a picture of some of the committee members who were able to attend the Health Care Council’s award breakfast on the 4th.  Check out our Facebook page (and “Like” us if you haven’t already, www.facebook.com/MarrakechIncCT) to see what else the Health and Wellness Committee will be up to this month! 

For more information on our Health and Wellness programs, please feel free to email us at healthandwellness@marrakechinc.org or call Jill Cretella at (203) 389-2970, extension 1101.