MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As rewarding as they can be, people in health-related careers frequently face long shifts and tiring tasks, often leading to high stress and less energy to maintain the healthy habits they encourage others to adopt. Since 1995, The Wellness Program of the WVU Health Sciences Campus has helped the employees of the WVU Health Sciences Center and WVU Healthcare become healthier, fitter and happier through an array of lifestyle enrichment resources.
“With thousands of employees from our region, our workplace is our community,” explained Dave Harshbarger, Wellness Program manager. “By helping people decrease their stress, improve their eating habits, take a fitness class and quit smoking – that community becomes a better place to work.”
Numerous fitness and recreation programs pair with educational and screening opportunities to help employees make informed health and lifestyle choices for themselves and their families, and the program benefits WVU and WVU Healthcare as well.
“We are involved in several collaborative efforts with various departments to decrease stress levels, absenteeism and on-the-job injuries,” Harshbarger continued. “We also strive to increase employee morale.”
The Wellness Program hosts a weekly farmers’ market on Wednesdays from April to October. Employees can find fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, plants, restaurant offerings and handmade crafts each week. It is a popular lunchtime destination on the Ruby Memorial Hospital campus. Now in its fifth year, the farmers’ market has grown from 10 or 12 vendors per market in the beginning years out in the parking lot to a bustling on-campus market of 30 vendors.
“It has become so popular with the employees and vendors that we had to cap the number of vendors at 30 and had a wait list this year,” said Harshbarger. “It has become part of our culture and is a great public health effort to offer primarily healthy, local food options.”
Another very popular program administered by The Wellness Program is Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days®. 2013 marked the springtime team-based walking program’s 19th year and has proven very successful in engaging employees in healthy activity as they compete to rack up the miles. This program has become so popular, five years ago WVUH trademarked Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days® at both the state and federal level as a unique program offered by WVU Healthcare.
“Annually, we have nearly half of our workface engaged in what is the state’s largest physical activity program,” Harshbarger said. “We also see several thousand community members participating, bringing last year’s annual total to more than 5,500 engaged in a three month long exercise program.”
When not walking, employees have access to a 24-hour fitness center in Ruby Memorial Hospital, personal fitness coaching and group fitness classes with offerings like Zumba, yoga and weightlifting.
The Wellness Program has received national attention for offering The Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease, a life-changing outpatient program offered as both a benefit to employees and to the community at large. Ornish participants learn how changes in diet, activity and stress management can actually help reverse developing heart disease, often reducing or eliminating their need for maintenance drugs.
Operating as its own department, The Wellness Program is a merger of individual wellness programs formerly offered by the WVU Health Sciences Center, University Health Associates and WVU Hospitals. In 1998, 2001 and 2004, The Wellness Program of the WVU Health Sciences Campus received the Wellness Council of America’s Gold Well Workplace award. In 2008, The Wellness Program earned Platinum level National Excellence in Worksite Wellness designation by the Independent Wellness Council Network.
WVU Healthcare’s flagship hospital, Ruby Memorial, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It opened on July 19, 1988, after a generous donation from Morgantown philanthropist Hazel Ruby McQuain. The anniversary celebration will continue through the fall, marking a quarter century of care for tens of thousands of patients.