HealthScaping NorthWest

Creating healthy, vibrant communities

Leave a comment

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?



Leave a comment

Screen-Time: a Conversation with Jean Rystrom

I recently interviewed Jean Rystrom, National Clinical Lead for Screen-Time Reduction at Kaiser Permanente, for the Parenting in Portland newsletter.

“We have a problem with screen time,” declares my husband.

I glance up from my iPad and mumble, “I know. I just have to respond to this comment first.”

Ten minutes later, I wander out to the living room to find my husband scrolling through his iPhone, while our 13-year-old is doing the same. Our 11-year-old is on an iPad, our seven-year-old is on the laptop, and our two-year-old is looking over her shoulder.

My husband is right. We all have a problem with screen time. But what to do about it?

Please read the full interview here:

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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. 



Leave a comment

Parents and Childcare: Working Together to Help Kids Eat Healthy

Written by Kylie Menagh-Johnson, MPH for Parenting in Portland


“Can I give her some Fruit Loops?”

I shook my head in disbelief and told the childcare provider, “No… she’s only nine months old.”

It was my daughter’s first day in childcare. I couldn’t believe the teacher was offering sugary, processed cereal to my baby girl. I couldn’t believe they would offer that to any child, of any age.

Despite paying a premium price for downtown childcare, I realized I couldn’t count on the quality of the food they served. For the next six months, I stayed up late, chopping finger foods to send with my daughter the next day. It was exhausting. After transferring her to a marginally better center, I gave up on the late-night food preparation and settled for “good enough.”

We constantly hear that parents should take responsibility and instill good eating habits in their children. Many of us do our best. Yet sometimes, it feels like an uphill battle if the schools and programs in which we entrust our children don’t reinforce healthy habits.


Many childcare providers could be doing better to support our children’s health, according to a Multnomah County survey by the Oregon Public Health Institute and partners (2011). Areas of particular concern were:


  • Access to water
  • Enough time to play and be active
  • Too many sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Too much screen time (television, video games)
  • Letting children decide when they are full


Parents, childcare providers, and health advocates are working together to promote better nutrition in childcare centers and in-home providers across Oregon.


But First, What Are the Rules?


 Licensed childcare providers in Oregon are required to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules for the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).


Child and health advocates have asked the USDA to update the rules to:


  • include more whole grains, beans, and orange and green fruits and vegetables,
  • eliminate sugar sweetened beverages,
  • decrease trans fats, solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, and
  • offer fat-free and low-fat milk (instead of whole milk).


If these efforts are successful, we should see a wider variety of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables being offered to our children. Health and education experts across the state have come together to support childcare centers in making this shift.


Oregon Initiatives to Promote Nutrition in Childcare


 Many local organizations work with childcare providers to improve nutrition. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) won funding from the USDA to promote a holistic approach to health among childcare providers. ODE provides small grants to 35 “Childcare Wellness Champions” and helps them improve across five key areas:


  1. Increase the amount and variety of fruit and vegetables
  2. Increase healthy beverages
  3. Increase accommodations for breastfeeding
  4. Eliminate screen time (television, videos, computer games)
  5. Increase physical activity


ODE provides an online Child Care Wellness Warehouse that is chock-full of curriculum ideas for eating local fruits and vegetables, gardening, cooking classes, and more.


The Harvest for Healthy Kids Program is another inspiring effort to help preschool kids eat healthy. The program introduces new fruits and vegetables to young children through picture books, gardening, local produce, games, and family-style meals that provide role modeling. It’s a collaboration between Mount Hood Community College Head Start and Portland State University. Ecotrust has launched the Oregon Farm-to-Preschool Coalition to spread similar programs.


The Right from the Start Coalition, formed last October to promote nutrition in childcare. Amanda Peden, Master of Public Health, of theOregon Public Health Institute believes it “has the potential to make a really strong impact in childcare.”


With a focus on improving accommodations for breastfeeding at childcare, the Right from the Start Coalition also works on nutrition, physical activity, and screen time.


“We know it’s important to support health in the early years, so that children have the best start in life and are set on a path for a healthy, successful life,” says Peden. “Nutrition also includes healthy first foods for baby—think about how your childcare provider supports you when you are going back to work and continuing to breastfeed.”


“Healthy and Local” is a Growing Trend


“Many programs are offering more local and organic options – especially dairy and produce. We offer organic milk, and our produce vendor offers an ‘Organic Pick of the Week’ which varies in price. Although this option is more expensive, more centers are seeing the value in offering this option because of the demand from families,” observes Jillian Hoy ofCreative Minds Learning Center (CMLC).


CMLC’s program includes gardening, cooking classes, and a vegetarian menu. Gardening and cooking classes help the kids get more excited about trying new foods because they are more involved in the process from start to finish.


“Most parents are excited that it’s fresh and we’re not messing around with processed meats and frozen fish sticks,” says Hoy. “CMLC prides itself on offering freshly made meals and snacks, with no processed foods that tend to be full of sodium, refined sugars, and empty calories. The vegetarian menu saves on the cost of using fresh and grain-fed meats, which are just too expensive, and reduces the chances of cross-contamination and food-borne illness.”


They incorporate beans and cheese into the menu for protein, and train the teachers on how to patiently introduce new foods to young children.


What Parents Can Do


If your childcare center is already doing a great job, let them know you appreciate the extra effort and care they are taking. Gratitude goes a long way toward encouraging them to keep up the good work!


If you are unsure, some questions to ask your existing or potential childcare provider include:


  1. Is the food fresh, homemade, or frozen/prepackaged?
  2. Do you offer both fruits and vegetables at every meal?
  3. Do you offer vegetarian entrees?
  4. Do you serve whole grains at least half the time you serve grains?
  5. How do you accommodate allergies and special diets?
  6. What do your teachers do when a child says they are full or still hungry?
  7. Are meals served family-style?
  8. Is there a quiet, designated space for breastfeeding?
  9. Do you have written guidelines for storage and handling of breastmilk?
  10. How do you incorporate nutrition education into your curriculum (stories, gardening, cooking classes, etc.)?


The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education also offers a full checklist for parents.


As parents and care providers work more closely together to offer healthy foods to our children, Peden offers some final wisdom: “Young children often must be offered a new food ten times before they’ll eat it. Just keep trying! They’ll eventually eat them. These are the habits that they’re learning for a lifetime.”



1 Comment

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.

1 Comment

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?