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February 2012: Get Started on a New Healthy Life
Read the Superintendent’s column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal today, Feb. 14
February 14, 2012
We just got back the results of an online health survey completed by more than 9,500 Albuquerque Public Schools employees and their spouses/domestic partners. The news wasn’t surprising, though it is concerning.
Just like so many Americans, many APS employees struggle with their weight, don’t get enough exercise and are at risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
I get it. I know how hard it is to eat right, to find time to exercise, to get enough sleep, to stop stressing about work, about life.
I’m as guilty as the next guy.
But our employees need to stay healthy. They’ve got important work to do, arguably some of the most important work in the nation. Whether in the classroom, the cafeteria, the maintenance yard or the office, we want the best for our more than 11,000 employees and that includes good health.
Employees insured through the district took the 30-minute online health profile a few months ago to help keep down their health insurance costs. The survey assessed 16 health areas including weight, nutrition, exercise, cardiovascular health, diabetes, tobacco use, cancer, personal safety, musculoskeletal risk, stress, depression and alcohol use.
Individual results are strictly confidential, but the aggregate data are telling. We are an aging population, with more than half of us between 40 and 59 years old, and that means higher risks for health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
Nearly two-thirds of us struggle with weight, a quarter admitted to not exercising enough and more than half don’t eat right. The survey results also confirmed what we already suspected — that a lot of us are overworked and overstressed.
We know that better health can lead to better job performance, so we’ve put together some initiatives to help our employees get and stay fit. We’re working on everything from basic prevention to life-saving strategies, all at very little, if any, cost to employees and the district.
These efforts can benefit the APS community in several ways: We can save tax dollars by reducing absenteeism and health care costs; we can support a healthier and more productive work environment for students to learn; and we can help employees serve as healthy role models for the children they work with every day.
This work is being coordinated by our employee wellness coordinator, Kathy Chavez, a registered and licensed dietician who is working in partnership with health care providers, businesses and community resources.
Upcoming initiatives include cancer prevention awareness, better eating and nutrition activities, humor, stress awareness, blood pressure testing, physical fitness and sports activities, home safety tips, massages, sun safety, cholesterol testing, yoga, health literacy, depression and health screenings, diabetes awareness and help with smoking cessation.
One project I’m especially excited about is our participation in Project Heart Start which will teach a “new” form of CPR called Compression-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
Working in partnership with Dr. Barry Ramo of KOAT-TV and the New Mexico Heart Institute, we will encourage employees and the rest of our APS family to participate in this important event, Saturday, June 23, at Isotopes Park.
Participants will learn how to use fast compressions to keep a person’s heart beating while waiting for rescuers. The new CPR means no more fumbling around trying to find a pulse, no mouth-to-mouth breathing and no complicated sequences to remember. It is easy to learn and more importantly, easy to remember.
I encourage you to mark that date on your calendar, and I hope we’ll see you there.
In the meantime, let’s all start taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle. February is heart month, a good time for us all to make a commitment to better living.
Here’s to your health!