Archive for September, 2007

I love that statement. I ran across it when reading about Nike’s recent shoe designed specifically for Native Americans. The most surprising fact:

It will be distributed solely to American Indians; tribal wellness programs and tribal schools nationwide will be able to purchase the shoe at wholesale price and then pass it along to individuals, often at no cost.

The company anticipates selling at least 10,000 pairs and raising $200,000 for tribal programs.

Talk about a commitment to creating more athletes!

You might argue that Nike doesn’t have a peerless history, but I think the overall impact of the company is positive. How many people have been inspired to get out there and “just do it,” to get outside and get active? Coupled with good nutrition, consistent physical activity is the best way to shape, strengthen, and vitalize your body. There’s simply no better way to prevent illness than to enliven the athlete in your body.

Apple Green

I love to see efforts like this that target neglected niches in the world of health and fitness. I’ve seen a similar trend happening in the world of cycling over the last few years. I’ve been an avid cyclist for years now, and I make it my preferred transportation option as often as I can. When folks ask me about what bike they should choose for their style of riding, I always make the same point: make sure the bike fits. No matter how nice the bike, you won’t ride it if it’s not comfortable. Once upon a time, you could either get a beach cruiser or road racing bike. Nowadays, there are a dizzying array of bicycle designs, and more importantly, there are bikes made specifically for women or folks who are BIG and tall. Better yet, the number of custom bike builders only increases over time, giving the customer complete control over the fit, handling and utility of their bike (check out Sweetpea Bicycles for instance, which makes bikes specifically for women here in Portland).

Wait, what about that title? If you have a body, you are an athlete. At some point in high school, I realized that I wanted to always be an athlete in body and mind. In other words, I wanted to get the absolute best about both aspects of my development. I hope that others see this in themselves, too. I think that each person has the ability to define what “athlete” means in their own life, and to take the steps required to become that athlete. Until someone develops a pill to mimic exercise, being comfortable in your shoes or on your bike is requisite for you to develop an activity routine.

So cheers to you Nike, for helping another neglected population get out there and just do it. I hope it is a rousing success and influences other companies to follow your lead.

Discovered via BHIC blog


Greetings, dear reader! I’m taking a quick timeout to explain the layout of this site. No one out there in the blogosphere seems to do this, which is unfortunate because I often find a lot of great resources on main blog pages!

I recently updated the theme of this site to a very clean and simple skin that includes 2 columns over there —>. At the top of the left column is the RSS feed for this site. I’m using feedburner, which eases subscription for whichever online or off-line reader you use and also provides some tools and reports I can use. If you don’t know what I’m talking about with all this RSS acronym fun, the second link, New to RSS?, is for you. Next, is the link to subscribe by e-mail, where you’ll get each new post delivered to the e-mail address of your choice if you’d prefer that.

Next, we have recent posts, which is self-explanatory. Below that are the categories that I’ve used for my posts up to this point, and how many posts reside in each. Approach, for instance, will give you the complete series on a naturopathic approach to corporate wellness. Under tags are links to all my archives by date.

Lastly, I have two badge links: FAVE THIS BLOG TO TECHNORATI, and BOOKMARK. The Technorati link will save this blog to your Technorati profile. I have to admit, despite being a veteran blog consumer, I never used Technorati before I started this blog. Technorati is THE search and index engine for all internet blogs, so I’m going to have to play with it more. The BOOKMARK link allows you to save any page here on the blog to the social bookmarking tool of your choice (, digg, stumbleupon, …). It will save the page that you are on, so if you clicked a particular blog post, you’ll save that link. If you’re on the main page, then will be saved. If you’re viewing this via my feedburner feed, then you already see the delicious and digg links right there at the bottom of each post!

Now on to the right-most column. First is a search box, and below that is a list of recent articles that I’ve found that relate to the subjects here. Due to the many different ways that corporate wellness is named, I occasionally search for news with multiple sets of terms and save it here. Check back every now and then!

Scrolling down, I have a little blogroll going, with some inspiring and thought-provoking blogs that I think you’ll be interested to read. This list will surely grow over time.

Finally, I have two badges at the moment. The first is Blog Action Day, which is October 15th. On that day, any blog who wishes to volunteer will write about the environment, hopefully within the context of their usual subject matter. As naturopathy definitively urges you to return to nature, this will be an easy one for me. Don’t let me forget! Finally, the colorful butterfly is a meme started at the Helfgott blog:

The butterfly in this context specifically shows support for a universal health care involving compassionate health practitioners, who seek the root cause for suffering, who are educated with effective tools for treating sickness and suffering, who possess exemplary bed-side mannerisms, and who rely on treatment methodology that does not harm the patient.

I hope this helps, or at least got you to check more out!

Skyscraper tree

As I’ve delved into the world of corporate wellness, I’ve found that there a lot of words for it. So far, I’ve discovered:

And the list, no doubt, goes on.

Occupational health is probably the original place that the move towards corporate wellness started. As defined, occupational health focuses on workplace safety and therefore reducing and preventing anything that might be detrimental to the health of each employee. Over years, many companies have been able to build safety into corporate culture, therefore making it automatic. At my work, people call you out if you even motion to stand on a chair. My dad, who batches concrete, has to wear steel-toed boots even though he spends all day behind a computer. Many employees might whine about such measures being overbearing, but no one wins when an employee gets hurt at work: the worker loses income, the employer loses productivity and gains health cost, and the co-workers have to pick up the slack. The result of safety efforts, training and awareness campaigns is that employees pro-actively ensure workplace safety as a part of their job. I don’t think you could find a better measure of success than that.

As many companies experienced sterling safety records, they wondered what else they could do. The next logical step was to go beyond removing detriments to health and to help each employee achieve optimum health. Although a significant challenge, the quantifiable and uncountable benefits for the employee and the employer are immense. In addition, many factors are pushing employers in this direction. Although I’d like to believe that everyone wants to nourish their inner athlete, I know that the universal motivator for change is increasing: money. As health care costs rise at an accelerating pace, many companies are seeing their related expenditures rise into the billion$ and as a result, they are pushing those costs onto their employees. Besides that, the employer always loses when an employee misses work or cannot work at full speed due to illness. From their perspective, a healthy employee means a productive employee that brings their A-game to work on a consistent basis.

In the last decade or so, many companies have been able to create the culture of prevention that I’ve been talking about. However, we’re slow to see these effects spill into society as a whole. As companies help employees identify health risk factors, introduce healthy eating habits and provide better options in work cafes, and in some cases, provide facilities for fitness and physical activity, our health care dilemma only increases. Obesity, diabetes and cancer are marching strongly forward. Is it time that workplace wellness programs set bigger goals? Is this an avenue that the general health care community can use to achieve public health goals? Should public health encroach into corporate social responsibility?

This is a revolutionary possibility. Corporations have demonstrated that with a naturopathic approach to corporate wellness, employees can take charge and improve their personal health. The question now is, how can the methodologies and technologies developed by corporations to create a successful culture of prevention be applied to a wider community?

In my mind, naturopathic medicine is one answer, at least on a smaller scale. By definition, naturopathic doctors work closely with each patient to identify the roadblocks to their ideal health, to correct the root cause of those roadblocks by tapping into the patient’s innate ability to heal, and to move into a state of prevention and education about healthy living. Corporate wellness programs seek to do exactly the same thing.

In the end, maybe there’s a partnership here that can happen. While naturopaths can provide the knowledge and techniques to make preventive, holistic health the norm, the corporations can provide expertise and information technology to apply it on a bigger scale. Although corporations might see their successful wellness programs as strategic advantages to attracting the best and brightest, they could also realize that these programs could be applied to become a transformative force and asset to the health of the communities in which they operate. Although there might exist a number of preconceptions on both sides of this partnership, I think a lot could be learned with open discussion and debate.

To conclude the series of ideas to apply a naturopathic approach to corporate wellness, I’ll tackle the sixth and final principle of naturopathy: prevention. The naturopathic physician recognizes the fact that the goal of healthcare is not only treatment of disease, but ultimately the prevention of disease. To meet this goal, the naturopath works with each patient to maximize their health through education and the promotion of health-building habits.

In my approach to corporate wellness, all the previous principles I have applied have been shaped to help the employee achieve proactive wellness through prevention. The process flow now looks like this:

  • employee clarifies their personal health goals
  • employee realizes they hold the power and responsibility to reach those goals
  • the program works with the employee to identify the root cause of what is hindering them from reaching their goals
  • the program helps the employee take a 360-degree view of their internal and external health, to reach their goals in totality
  • the program empowers the employee with knowledge and strategies to make their goals happen
  • celebrate and share success! and now reset goals and continue the process again

This process positions the employee population to take charge of their health and foster a culture of prevention. Imagine a workplace where folks talked about how good they feel as opposed to how much they’re paying for prescriptions and how tired they are all the time. Obviously the workplace itself can attribute to such negativity, but if employees have already taken charge of their health, they’ll be that much more able and motivated to take charge of their work and the shape of their company. I don’t know about you, but I want to work with that workforce!

Hopefully, I’m showing a bit of a pattern here. In the first four posts of this series, I’ve emphasized a naturopathic approach to corporate wellness, through the six guiding principles of naturopathy. The one principle that has been present within my thought process so far but that hasn’t been called out explicitly is doctor as teacher.

Within naturopathic medicine, doctor as teacher means that the naturopath realizes that it is up to the patient to take charge of their own healing. Knowing this, the naturopath then works to empower and enable the patient to follow a path that will maximize that healing ability. The naturopath acts as a catalyst for the patient’s wellness revolution.

Within corporate wellness, I think this means that wellness coaches and programs should endeavor to empower the employee with knowledge and strategies to make their self-defined wellness goals happen. This seems obvious, but I think the key here is to always realize that it’s up to the employee to make these changes happen. Therefore, pragmatic and actionable information is key. To provide libraries or indexes of already available information adds no value. But if proven, time-tested and simple strategies to help the employee make incremental changes in their routines are made available, then the more likely they will actually be applied. And better yet, provide the employees a forum to share their progress, challenges and successes with their peers. A little cheering and motivation goes a long way.

Treat the whole person. In the case of my first naturopathic experience, I was a bit taken aback by the amount of time and effort made by the doctor to understand the totality of my problem. Not only did she want to identify the root cause, she sought to explore the entirety of my being to help me overcome not only my initial problem, but anything standing in the way of my own maximum health. With this principle, naturopathic physicians employ a comprehensive approach in diagnosis and treatment. They recognize that the integrity of one’s health is best-defined through the complex interaction of multiple factors within one’s body and mind.

Within the world of corporate wellness, this principle can be applied directly. The wellness program should provide the employee the tools and expertise to identify and rectify any and all factors preventing their ideal health. This should include resources to improve physical and mental health, encouragement and strategies for lifestyle modification, and ideally, should provide emotional support through the employee’s evolution.

Companies must realize that employees are more than resources that complete tasks between 8am and 5pm. To foster a relationship that realizes the vast contributions that each employee can make to a company’s success, the company should partner with the employee for mutual success. In my mind, this means helping the employee achieve this holistic health. This way, the employee will not only perform better in their tasks, but their positive energy will infect their coworkers and help all achieve extraordinary accomplishments.