HealthScaping NorthWest

Creating healthy, vibrant communities

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Live to Work, or Work to Live?

Make Life Work

I was delighted to learn earlier today that The Huffington Post, BlogHer, and the Center for American Progress have launched the Make Life Work campaign!

Make Life Work

Exciting News!

This could be the turning point for our nation, and a boost for all of us trying to heed our forefathers’ call to pursue that inalienable right: happiness. With an emphasis on flexible workplaces and leave policies that reflect the realities of modern families, these three powerhouses are well-equipped to lead us to a better way to work. Check out the campaign and how you can get news, become an advocate, and share your story on BlogHer.

Just this weekend, I had the good fortune to witness Guy Kawasaki interview Arianna Huffington at the BlogHer14 Conference in San Jose.

She spoke with heart and humor about her vision for a healthier, happier American workforce. Her tips formed the nuts and bolts of any good chronic disease prevention or workplace wellness program: get enough sleep, meditate, eat healthy, and be active. She spoke with wisdom and humor about these human needs, which are so basic and yet so difficult to accommodate in the modern economy.

High-powered leaders and barely-making-it employees alike are increasingly burning out from always being “on.” So many suffer chronic stress from unpredictable shift work schedules, sleep deprivation, lack of sick leave, and less-than-living wages. These conditions can have devastating effects on performance; Arianna Huffington herself collapsed due to sleep deprivation two years into the making of the Huffington Post, injuring her cheek and requiring stitches. That would certainly be a wake-up call for anybody. She shared how she has changed her habits, and detailed her vision for a workplace culture that supports employee wellbeing. And, hey, if she can now get 8 hours sleep a night 90% of the time, so can the rest of us!

It may take a little help from the top, however.

Fortunately, employers have begun to realize that healthy workplace policies are good for the bottom line. Huffington writes about this in her book, Thrive. Though slanted toward the debilitating stress experienced by even high-powered employees, she asks us all to take a good look at our definition of success and suggests we add a “third metric” alongside wealth and power: wellness. Her book lauds several top-employers that have decided to prioritize employees’ health: doing the right thing for employees is also the right thing for business. Happier, healthier employees are more loyal and more productive… and accrue less expensive health care needs. And that’s a winning situation.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance? How do you manage stress at work?



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HealthScaping NW Spokesperson for Gun Safety at Flash Mob

Coverage from the Oregonian on Portland’s Art=Ammo Flash Mob for Gun Safety

Kylie Menagh-Johnson, MPH, Principal, HealthScaping NorthWest, serves as Spokesperson for the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence

Read the story and watch the video below:

Downtown Portland flash mob takes aim at gun violence awareness

May 23, 2013, Written by Everton Bailey, Video by Motoya Nakamura

A crowd of about 30 people staged a flash mob in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square to bring attention to the effects of gun violence Thursday.

The event, called Art=Ammo, began about noon and saw some participants raise their hands, then fall to the ground to simulate being wounded, said Kylie Menagh-Johnson, a spokeswoman for Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence.

Other demonstrators then drew chalk outlines around those on the ground and wrote statistics on gun violence in near the drawings.

Similar demonstrations are planned for New Haven, Conn., San Francisco, Westchester, N.Y. and Minneapolis, according to Art=Ammo’s website.

“We want Oregonians to know that we have the opportunity to demand stronger gun safety legislation,” Menagh-Johnson said. “Universal background checks for example are a great way to keep guns away from people who should not have them.”

She added that the group hopes to urge state legislators to reform gun control laws including required background checks on private and online gun sales allowing school districts to decide whether to arm teachers and other staff.

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HealthScaping at Work: Support Breastfeeding

Did you know you can reduce employee absenteeism and health care costs, while boosting employee

Breastfeeding symbol

retention, productivity, and morale, just by supporting nursing mothers?

Women with young children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and most new mothers return to work when their babies are just 12 weeks old[i].

Helping mothers continue to breastfeed after returning to work makes good business sense. It’s also Oregon law.

Breastfeeding keeps babies healthy and boosts their immunity. Mothers who formula-feed their babies miss work three times as often as breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding is also good for the long-term health of employees and their children. It reduces children’s risks for obesity, diabetes, asthma, and allergies; while reducing mothers’ risks for obesity, osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancers.

Walk the Talk

Following the law is easy.  For every four hours worked, provide breastfeeding mothers with 30 minutes of unpaid break time to express milk. Provide them with a private location—not a restroom or toilet stall—that is near their work area. The employee needs to let you know she plans to express milk at work, attempt to take breaks at normal break and meal-times, and should use flex-time to make up for any work-time missed.

To really make things go smoothly and quickly, HealthScaping NorthWest can assist you in developing your own written policy and practices.

Because breastfeeding is so important to employee health and satisfaction, many employers choose to create a dedicated ‘Mother’s Room’ equipped with:

  • Comfortable chair and footstool
  • Electrical outlet
  • Small table or counter
  • Sink with running water
  • Refrigerator
  • Sanitary hand and surface wipes
  • Motivational posters and books

Employers can apply for designation as a ‘Breastfeeding Mother Friendly Employer.’

Healthy Benefits

High-grade breast pumps are efficient, save time, and more comfortable to use, but they can cost $200 or more. In your employee benefits package, include reimbursement for breast-pumps as a durable medical device or reimburse the rental of a hospital-grade pump.

Purchasing a hospital-grade multi-user pump and installing it in the ‘Mother’s Room’ is another way to save money as an employer and make expressing milk faster and more convenient for employees.

Providing coverage for lactation classes and lactation consultants will also help new families get breastfeeding off to a healthy start.

The Bottom Line

Workplaces have an important role in supporting breastfeeding, and the benefits accrue both ways.

For every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there were 2,033 extra physician
 visits, 212 extra hospitalization days, and 609 extra prescriptions for three 
illnesses alone – ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infection[ii].

CIGNA insurance studied the results of enrolling 343 employees in a lactation support program, and found annual savings of $240,000 in health care costs, 62 percent fewer prescriptions, and $60,000 savings in reduced absenteeism[iii].

The next time you review your workplace wellness programs, make sure they include world-class support for breastfeeding mothers.


[i] Oregon Health Authority. Breastfeeding: Workplace Support. (2013).

[ii] Ball T & Wright A. (1999). Health care costs of formula- feeding in the first year of life. Pediatrics, 103 (4), 871-876.

[iii] Dickson V, Hawkes C, Slusser W, Lange L, & Cohen R. (2000). The positive impact of a corporate lactation program on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates: help for the working mother. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at the Annual Seminar for Physicians, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and La Leche League International, on July 21, 2000.

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HealthScaping at Work: Get Active!

Stairway fitness

Stairway fitness (Photo credit: gorbould)

Have you heard of the ‘sitting disease’?

Many of us sit at a desk or in meetings for most of the day, eating while we work, never taking a real break.

Sitting for hours a day has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and shorter lifespans.

Employers can improve workers’ health and reduce healthcare costs by taking a few simple steps to get people moving throughout the workday.

Walk the Talk 

Many employers sponsor fitness activities, provide flex-time, subsidize gym memberships, encourage cycling to work by installing bike racks, and provide exercise rooms, lockers and showers.

But employers can kick it up a notch by getting people moving while they work[i]. Some ideas to try:

  • Walking meetings: Take a walk outside with one or two employees as you problem-solve, plan, or brainstorm. This gets the blood flowing, manages stress, boosts morale, and creates a culture of health.
  • Take the stairs or walk to another building for your next large meeting. Skip the elevator when you’re just going a few floors. Allow employees time to take the stairs, walk, or bike to appointments.  <insert picture of a StairWell campaign sign>
  • Guide people in some light stretching at the beginning of a morning or post-lunch meeting, or during breaks of longer meetings.
  • Allow employees to alternate between standing, sitting, and using an exercise ball at the desk or workstation.
  • Encourage employees to get up and walk to each other’s offices and talk face-to-face, rather than sending another email.
  • In call centers or similar workplaces, encourage employees to stand and stretch while they talk on the phone, or take a quick break once an hour to walk to the bathroom or get a glass of water, coffee, or tea.
English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chie...

English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West speaks with Navy Times reporter Mark Faram during a walking meeting along the National Mall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s especially important for managers to set the tone. If you take the stairs, ask your employees to walk with you, bike to work, or switch out your chair for a balance ball, your employees will feel empowered.

HealthScaping NW can walk you through the steps of adopting policies that get employees moving.

Healthy Benefits

Include a number of incentives for physical activity in your employee benefits package, including: gym subsidies, flex-time, public transportation passes (which encourage walking and biking to and from transit stops), as well as fitness coaching or on-site exercise facilities.

The Bottom Line

Small changes that promote physical activity at work add up to big rewards in reducing employees’ obesity, chronic diseases, stress, turnover, and health care costs[ii].

Worksite wellness programs produce a great Return on Investment: Worksite weight loss programs are cost-effective, producing a savings of $1.44 to $4.16 for every pound lost[iii]. 

Why wait?

Contact HealthScaping NW today.

[i] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Environmental and policy approaches to increase physical activity: creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach activities. (2011).

[ii]Guide to Community Preventive Services. The Community Guide in Action: Investing in Worksite Wellness for Dow Employees. (March, 2012).

[iii] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Obesity prevention and control: worksite programs.

 [KM1]3 examples

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HealthScaping at Work: Going Tobacco-Free

More and more businesses are ‘going smokefree’ or even entirely tobacco-free on their grounds and facilities.


Because it makes good business sense!

Going tobacco-free is popular with employees and clients… and health insurers.

If your employees and clients are like most Oregonians, they know that secondhand smoke is a health hazard and want to avoid it.

Most tobacco-users want to quit, and, along with good tobacco cessation benefits, a tobacco-free campus helps them quit and stay quit.

Walk the Talk

Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law already prohibits smoking inside most workplaces and within 10 feet of doors, windows that open, accessibility ramps, and air intake vents.

Many area employers, including Ashforth, OHSU, and Boeing, take it to the next level and go entirely smokefree outdoors at their workplace.  Some prohibit tobacco use of all kinds.

HealthScaping NorthWest can walk your business through the steps of adopting a policy.

Healthy Benefits

Tobacco use is a leading driver of healthcare costs and sick days.  Tobacco cessation benefits are considered the ‘gold standard’ in Return on Investment in healthcare.

Estimate your Return on Investment with the ROI calculator at America’s Health Insurance Plans:

Go for gold: Choose a tobacco cessation benefit package that includes:

  • Counseling
  • Medication (prescription & over-the-counter)
  • Coverage for at least two quit attempts a year
  • Low or no co-payments
  • No prior authorization or program enrollment to access medications

Promote your tobacco cessation benefits to employees in newsletters, meetings, and new hire information.

Promote the Free Oregon Tobacco Quit Line

The Bottom Line

Tobacco use is expensive.

It is the leading cause of disease and death in Oregon: 7000 deaths a year.


As the underlying factor in most cancers and heart disease, it is driving health care costs higher and higher.

A tobacco-free wellness campaign may be the most important thing you can do to improve employees’ health and productivity while reducing health care costs. 



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Healthy Meetings at Work

Many of us sit in meetings for most of the day. Often we eat meals while we meet, and never really take a break.

Here are three simple ways to make meetings contribute to workplace health and wellness:

1. Have you ever considered a walking meeting?

When meeting with one or two people, consider taking a walk outside. This is great for one-on-one check-in meetings with employees.

The benefits include fresh air, sunshine (which helps our bodies make Vitamin D), physical activity, and better workplace relationships. In turn, walking meetings can help reduce workplace stress, increase employees’ physical activity, and raise morale–all good for heart health. The fresh air and easy exercise get the blood flowing to the brain, prompting fresh thinking and problem-solving.

Bonus: Take the stairs or walk to another building for your next large meeting.

Bonus: Guide people in some light stretching at the beginning of a morning or post-lunch meeting, or during breaks of longer meetings.

2. Healthy Snacks

Many workplaces include food at meetings in an attempt to reward employees or build a sense of community. Next time, skip the donuts or candy, and choose a healthier option, such as small whole grain bagels, nut butter, and fruit.

Many employees are likely watching their weight, and will appreciate healthy food that feeds the brain, too.

Click for a downloadable list of healthy foods for meetings, put together by the Oregon Nutrition Policy Alliance.

Bonus: Provide reusable plates and flatware.

Bonus: Provide locally grown or organic, fresh fruits and vegetables.

3. Bring on the Water

Instead of serving sugar-sweetened beverages (juice, juice-drinks, or soda) or “diet” drinks, provide fresh water.

Unlike sugar-sweetened and diet beverages, water satisfies thirst without adding extra calories or creating hunger. Studies have linked diet soda to diabetes and depression.

Many people are trying to drink more water. Our bodies are 60 percent water, and every organ system depends on it. Mild dehydration causes stress and exhaustion, but drinking enough water helps people feel energized and think sharp!

Water is important to long-term health as well.

Bonus: Instead of providing bottled water, reduce plastic waste by providing pitchers of tap water and reusable drinking glasses.

Bonus: Provide reusable water bottles or glasses to employees as incentives for participation in your wellness program.

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Changing the Conversation about Gun Violence

The Epidemiologic Triangle: Changing the Conversation about Gun Violence

Public health practitioners use a tool called the “Epidemiologic Triangle” to identify the causes and transmission of an epidemic, and to identify points of intervention:

How do we end gun violence?

The points of the triangle are the Environment, Host, and Agent. How can we use this concept, this vocabulary, to talk about gun violence?

Understanding the Triangle:

Take malaria for example: The Agent is a parasite. Mosquitoes are the Vector–they transmit malaria to the Host. The Host? Humans. And the Environment brings them all together.

Malaria can be addressed by changing the Environment (percolating water, mosquito dunks), cutting down on the Vector by reducing the mosquito population, and by improving the Host’s (human’s) resistance through medication.

To be effective, all must be done.

Applying the Triangle: Smoking-Related Diseases

In tobacco prevention, multiple strategies are used to effect change:

  • Improve the Environment: pass smoke-free workplaces laws
  • Limit the Agent: reduce access to cigarettes (no sales to minors, taxes)  Note:despite the diagram THERE IS NO SAFE CIGARETTE, and FILTERS DON’T WORK!
  • Limit the Vector, otherwise known as Big Tobacco: stop them from marketing to children (remember Joe Camel)
  • Build resistance in the Host: Quit Lines, quit-smoking medications, education, school programs

So how can we apply this to gun violence?

If we are committed to change, we must address all of these factors.Here is my simplistic first pass at it:

Agent: guns.

Semi-automatic assault weapons, are the common factor in these shootings. They are designed to kill people, not for hunting or “sport” or defending yourself against an intruder. They kill many people, quickly.  Many gun owners support getting military-style weapons off the streets.

Vector: shooters, often mentally ill or criminal… or just children who are playing with a household gun.

We need to have a robust mental health system, including support for people with mental illness and other disorders. We need to do everything we can to prevent child abuse and school bullying. We need to make sure the community has plenty of activities to engage our children.

Host: the victims

Short of issuing bullet-proof vests, I’m at a loss here. A school security guard with a hand-gun isn’t going to be able to defend a class full of children from a shooter.

Environment: a culture that makes guns easy to get.

The United States has the highest rate of per-capita gun ownership: 88.8 guns per 100 people. The next two closest countries, Serbia and Yemen, have gun ownership rates around 58 and 54 percent.

We have the 12th highest rate of gun deaths of any nation, around 9 deaths per 100,000 people. Our gun death rates far outstretch any industrialized nation, which have about 1 death per 100,000 or less. People are dying from gunshots at a rate similar to South Africa and Montegro, not European countries or Canada.

So what do we do? What are your ideas?

How do we come together to change ALL parts of this triangle?