Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)
23 years with 16 years at current organization
Sr. Health, Safety And Environmental Compliance Specialist/Wellness Administrator
1572 Represented and non-represented employees
Local Government- Transportation
Master’s Education/Exercise Physiology and Adapted Physical Education
ACSM/Health Fitness Specialist
WELCOA Faculty Member
AHA Fit Friendly Gold Recognition
California Gold Fit Business
My health profession career began as a coach with Special Olympics for power lifting and downhill skiing. As a graduate assistant, I worked with college students providing exercise programs for individuals with physical challenges. These opportunities created the passion to work with others through fitness and movement. When exploring health career options outside the cardiac rehab and physical therapy arena, corporate wellness programs were increasing in scope and availability. My career began at Pacific Bell. After a few years with Pacific Bell, the opportunity became available to work with OCTA. As a Health Promotion professional, there is the opportunity to interact with others while helping them to change behaviors along and having fun while working. Many of my coworkers commend me for the passion I have in my field of work. No matter how small the step, no matter one’s deviation from their goal, I am there to help guide and support others on their path to change their lifestyle choices.
Each of my trainings and degrees has given me the stepping stone to be the successful. How many jobs are there in this world where one can interact with others and help guide others while having fun?
OCTA Wellness program is committed to creating a healthy culture by providing education, tools, programs, environment, and support to encourage lifestyle choices that enhance an employees’ physical, mental, social, and financial well-being. In the transit industry, bus operators are more likely to have serious and often chronic health problems. Work factors such as sedentary work, schedule stress, work times, unstructured eating regimes in combination with genetics and lifestyle choices lead to those health problems. OCTA strives to create an organizational culture that supports healthy, well-balanced lifestyles and positive employee morale.
An operating plan was created for our program when I started at OCTA. The plan has been evaluated and updated as necessary throughout the years. Since we are a government agency we have to be ever conscious of our funding. The plan is the tool we present to management to help support our program goals and funding. Our executives champion our programs, deliver communications and have been a part of our recognition programs.
In order to insure we offer the best programs for our limited budget, we collect and analyze data from our events/programs; assess outcomes and alter the operating plan as needed. It is essential for organizations to know their demographics, their organizational culture, as well, as sub-cultures within. We are focusing on stress management with one “sub-culture”. We have introduced onsite chair massages. The combination of good therapist and affordable cost has led to a successful program. We have introduced onsite yoga, mat pilates, and TajiFit classes. OCTA supplements the cost of each class series at 90%. We don’t subsidize the classes at 100% because we feel we have a better participation rate if they perceive they are paying for part of the series.
Within the transit industry, the work population is harder to reach because they don’t have the traditional office or technology and on the road during their work shift. It is important to evaluate the offered programs for this group in order to present the right opportunities to guide them to healthier lifestyle choices. For this subculture, we are promoting healthy lifestyle choices by focusing on improving their eating choices and adding movement to their generally sedentary day. We are helping them to understand how poor choices can lead to increased weight which may eventually develop into sleep issues. The Federal Motor Carriers is beginning to associate the link between obesity and sleep apnea. In the near future, they may restrict the issuance and renewal commercial driving license for individuals with sleep apnea. At OCTA, we want to be proactive and help the employees maintain their license and keep their employment.
I have a passion for what I do and believe that movement is important for optimal health. As such, movement is a daily occurrence for me, it may be walking, Tai Chi, cycyling or exercising my horses. Every day I find the energy at the end of long work day and commute to make the time to move. I need to be “walking the talk” when asking others to add movement to their day. With my busy commute schedule and work, it show others that it can be done – You can find 10 or 15 minutes different times of the day to help achieve the goal recommended by ACSM.
Based on health assessment and biometric results we have been focusing on increasing physical activity of the population to improve health indicators and as a stress management tool. Year over year results for the lifestyle risks for our population have shown an increase in employees’ stressors. We have added a variety of exercise classes that are free or subsidized for the employees. The most successful class for 2014 has been an indoor boot camp. An additional stress management tool has been the chair massage program.
I am confident the industry is focusing on the correct concepts. It isn’t just about incentives and disincentives. It is not all about numbers. Health Promotion needs to be focusing on well-being – the integration of health promotion throughout the culture of the organization. There will always be budget issues. There will always be the next best challenge/concept. There will always be the need to help others and influence their lifestyle choices. It is up to us to help them find their purpose, their health and their happiness.
In the next five years, I will be transitioning from the corporate wellness arena to the consulting and coaching arena. This transition allows me time to join two of my passions – fitness/movement and horses. I plan to work with individuals to improve their fitness level on the ground so it will translate to better balance and control when riding.