Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 12, 1997

New program for employees wellness is here

by Anne Dolan

Iowa State's new wellness program adds another dimension to a "holistic approach to the health and well-being of university employees," says Carla Espinoza, assistant vice president for human resource services.

Lauri Dusselier, the university's first employee wellness program coordinator, started her job Dec. 8. Her office is in 318B Beardshear.

"Wellness is the other side of the scale from where the Employee Assistance Program sits," Espinoza said. (In November, Iowa State expanded its EAP contract with McFarland Clinic and The Richmond Center.) "Where EAP addresses emotional health, wellness is about physical health."

Although the wellness program's mission and organization still is being fine-tuned by Espinoza, Dusselier and an advisory committee, Espinoza said the program will be more than aerobics and other kinds of fitness classes. Wellness also can include research, education and assistance in such areas as stress management, nutrition, dental care, smoking cessation or cholesterol testing. Wellness assistance can be shared through classes, one-on-one sessions and self-directed programs on video or CD.

Espinoza, who researched wellness programs at other schools before she opened the search for a wellness director at ISU, said wellness programs are not a standard benefit at all schools yet. "But they are becoming the norm for employers in higher education who want to be the employer of choice," she added.

Dusselier's job is to build relationships between Iowa State and existing programs in Ames and Des Moines. She also will work with ISU's health and dental insurance carriers to provide helpful education materials to employees.

Espinoza encouraged supervisors and managers to educate themselves about the value of employee wellness -- and provide a supportive climate for staff members.

"I hope they see that wellness isn't just about 'having fun,'" she said. "Wellness is more about balance in one's life. Balance helps make us all happier and more productive."

Former ISU employee Lisa Safaenili developed the first proposal for a wellness program following 1993 employee survey results that indicated 45 percent of respondents were overweight and 33 percent had high cholesterol. The Faculty Senate and P&S Council reviewed and supported early plans for a wellness program, Espinoza said.

Funding for the three-year pilot project (about $101,000 this year) is coming from the President's Office. While the program is a test, Espinoza said utilization is a benchmark for its success.

For more information or to make an appointment with Dusselier, call 4-3240.

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