Perspectives Online

Workable Wellness

Family and Consumer Sciences Department faculty developed the training materials for 12 modules related to wellness themes.
A new curriculum, developed by the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, will help people understand and address issues of personal wellness – right in their own places of work.

Workable Wellness, taught by trained Cooperative Extension agents, is designed for to employees to learn in their workplaces, said Dr. Wayne Matthews, FCS associate professor and Extension specialist. “It’s for the guy at the poultry plant, as well as the guy at the business meeting,” he said.

The concept for the project was initiated about three years ago, and the curriculum was completed last year. “The overarching theme of wellness goes beyond health care. Wellness is anything that enhances our sense of well-being,” Matthews said.

Agents are encouraged to approach local employers who may be interested in providing such a program to their employees.

Matthews and the Family and Consumer Sciences team started by surveying county agents to find out what topics would fit under the wellness umbrella. The first list of responses was too broad, so the group tried again, narrowing the focus to “what five things would give you an overall sense of well-being?”

The request to agents came at a particularly stressful time when many state agencies and businesses were struggling with reduced budgets and staffs. The themes of wellness that came from their responses were stress management, time management, family-work balance and resource management.

Faculty and staff in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department developed 12 training modules related to at least one of these themes. For example, a module on estate planning addresses stress management because “it helps manage family stress [following a death] if the estate is in order,” Matthews said.

The modules range from “The Perfect Pantry: Healthy Meals in a Hurry” to “These

are the Moments of Your Life: Making the Most of Your Time.” Other topics include housekeeping shortcuts, adding physical activity to life, seeking community support and financial fitness, practicing preventive health, parenting, finding work-family fit and managing stress.

Each training module went through three peer reviews – two in the FCS Department and one by a group of Cooperative Extension agents.

With the help of $23,000 in grant funds – including some from Cooperative Extension and the FCS Department — Matthews and his colleagues hired a graphic design firm.

In addition to a manual for trainers, the curriculum features a PowerPoint presentation for each of the 12 modules, logo, poster and marketing brochure. Each module even has its own four-page newsletter.

Instead of receiving printed newsletters, all participants receive a mini-CD that includes newsletters for all 12 modules. Participants can choose to print out the newsletters or read them on their computer.

For employers who wish to offer the program, Cooperative Extension agents can provide publicity posters and brochures. When the program is offered, agents can provide CDs for participants.

Workable Wellness is one of a number of recent health-related training programs developed by FCS. Others include Color Me Healthy, a program to encourage healthy nutrition and activity for 4- and 5-year-olds, and Cybershop, an interactive CD with a similar message that targets teens with a similar message.

Women Living Healthy, Women Living Well is a CD program focusing on women’s health, and Read Me a Story provides health messages to younger preschoolers. Other programs offered to adults are Partners in Wellness and Give Your Heart a Healthy Beat.

Last fall, FCS agents from across the state were trained in the Workable Wellness program. Matthews said 72 counties reported that they planned to offer the training program this year, and 57 counties have requested brochures and programming materials for making contacts with employers.

FCS agent Georgia Kight of Currituck County finds the curriculum versatile and has used it in several ways. She has taught stress management and time management lessons for groups such as nursing home employees, child care workers and secretaries in her Extension districts.

In addition, she hosted a six-session program at a local library for parents. The session was offered in conjunction with Read Me a Story, the preschool child nutrition program.

Candy Murray, Wilson County FCS agent, conducted the entire 12-program series for county employees. This group’s response to the class was good, and she hopes to conduct the training for social services’ employees early next year.

Her participants said the program had helped them make positive changes in their lives. “I am working on handling stress – making the most of my time. Lots of good tips – all sessions gave me useful and very helpful information,” said one participant.

Another reported making more of her time and enjoying time with her children. “I’ve tried to apply what I’ve learned, especially looking for community support and making the most of my life,” she said.

A third said the program encouraged her to make changes in her activity level and food purchases, adding, “I have lost some weight and lowered my cholesterol.”

—Natalie Hampton