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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Perspectives: Citrix and Leveraging Worksites for Wellness (January 2015)

Sara Merz, Director

Sara Merz, Director

A recent study found that adding a single serving of fruits or vegetables each day to each American’s diet could save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in health care costs nationally.

Such a small change, and such a huge outcome. From a systems-change perspective, one way to achieve large shifts across a population is by changing the environment where people already are so that a different behavior happens easily.  By changing just a few ways our workplaces function, we could increase healthy behaviors across large numbers of people, drastically improve our health, and reduce health care costs.

Last week I toured Citrix’s new office with the Urban Land Institute. Despite having seen a presentation with modeling previously, I was wowed. I saw adjustable standing desks that could be raised for standing or lowered for sitting, and many staff standing and moving around as they talked on the phone. I saw a beautiful green living wall, generating oxygen and also muffling the sound of the trains that run right by the building. Foosball, ping pong and pool tables give workers the opportunity to move around.

The living wall at Citrix in downtown Raleigh.

The living wall at Citrix in downtown Raleigh.

LEED-certified buildings (the “green” standard) reduce operating costs through design efficiencies, often repurpose existing material, and this workspace was designed in a way to appeal to millenials – and there are health benefits to the design.

Outdoor rooftop spaces have plantings and spaces to walk and sit. We didn’t get to the cafeteria, but it does or will feature healthy foods, and my personal favorite is the yoga studio with a heated floor and glass windows so you can see outside. Stunning! And incredibly invigorating.

When we think about policy and systems work and making the greatest impact on health, we have to factor in costs, effectiveness and sustainability. And we have to look at places where people already are and to what degree their behaviors are healthy or unhealthy. Our workplaces in Wake County are a huge place of opportunity for significantly tipping the needle on health. Workers are a captive audience for 8 or more hours a day. Wake County has a population of a million now, and 472,000 of us are in the workforce.

Imagine if half our population in Wake started adding one or two healthy behaviors each day, perhaps without exerting individual effort or willpower, because their employer just made it possible? Citrix has created an environment where workers easily do any number of healthy things on any given day in the regular work flow.

Beyond the health benefits, the savings would be incredible. And for any employer who negotiates its health care costs subsequently or measures productivity, there would be savings down the road.

 

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