Healthy PSU is a worksite wellness program at Plymouth State University (Plymouth, NH), designed to improve the health of over 800 university employees along with their families and assist in health care cost containment efforts of the University Systems of New Hampshire (USNH).
Our Mission: Healthy PSU seeks to promote a culture of positive health by providing leadership, opportunities and support for all PSU employees and their families, encouraging health and wellness in varied ways and thereby building healthy people in a healthy place.
The ultimate goal of this program is to shift the cultural narratives around health and health behaviors to produce long-term, sustainable improvements in employee health and reduce overall healthcare costs. The program is grounded in a social-ecological model of behavior change and uses strategic interventions that span across all levels of influence as depicted in this model.
Denise Normandin, RD, LD, brings over 15 years of experience in a variety of settings from program management to public health. She brings a solid background in health education, program design, nutrition and physical activity education and administrative expertise to her role as Healthy PSU Program Manager. Since February 2014, Denise has established and nurtured a thriving group of employee “Wellness Champions”, whose roles are to broadcast, promote and lead campus-wide health behavior initiative which address the 5 program goals for physical activity, healthy eating, stress reduction and benefits cost containment. Initiatives target the individual, social and environmental levels of influence for improving health choices. In July 2014, the Healthy PSU program was awarded the American Heart Association, Fit-Friendly Worksite Gold Award, a tribute to Denise’s leadership and hard work. In addition to what she has been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time, it is Denise’s commitment to the quality of programming and to her own professional growth that most deserves consideration for The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals status.
Denise Normandin, RD, LD
I received my B.S. degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Colorado State University in 1997. I worked as a Program Manager for the American Heart Association for 9 years. I completed my dietetic internship at Keene State College and earned my Registered Dietitian status from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) in 2006. I worked in clinical nutrition from 2006-2012. I completed Certificates of Training in Weight Management from the CDR. Most recently, I became a Certified WELCOA Faculty member. I decided to go into this field because I am passionate about motivating people to live healthier lifestyles.
In 2012, after completing health risk appraisals, health culture audits and focus groups (Benchmark #3) an operational plan (Benchmark #4) was developed with the feedback from employees. This plan drives all the interventions that are conducted. One of our goals from this plan is to increase opportunities and access for regular moderate to vigorous physical activity for all employees. Ways that we incorporate this at our workplace is by offering walking workshops, designated sneaker days and encouraging group walks at lunch time.
The most successful program intervention to date addressed and promoted physical activity in the form of walking at work (Benchmark #5). The invention encouraged leadership, teamwork and friendly indirect competition. In June 2014, we had over 160 individuals participate in a 2-mile group walk around campus, representing 19 different departments led by wellness champions (Benchmark #2) and employees from all-levels of the organization. The local newspaper attended and published the success of the walking event and everyone received a Healthy PSU t-shirt. Prior to this campus-wide group walking event only 3-4 departments representing approximately 20 people walked regularly at lunchtime. Employees continued to gather at noontime for walks and continued to track the miles they walked for the entire month of June. Our employee logged over 4,500 miles during that month!
Additionally, Healthy PSU point of decision prompts have been and continue to be placed around campus. The point of decision prompts include, door hangers encouraging wellness breaks, walking route maps on our website, signage at the bus shuttle stops indicating average walking times and distances to certain locations on campus and pole banners promoting the healthy people in a healthy place message (Benchmark #6).
We are currently in the process of offering biometric screenings, another health risk appraisal and health culture audit to assist us in determining program outcomes to date. Our Healthy PSU health and wellness initiatives are tied very closely to our employee core health care benefits. New for 2015, our employees will receive up to $400 incentive for completing the biometric screening and health questionnaire this fall during open enrollment. We also have participant’s regularly complete satisfaction and future interest surveys after participating in a workshops and/or other engagements.
This fall Plymouth State University released the Strategic Plan, Focus 2020. In the plan for the first time is a goal specific to health and wellness (Benchmark #1): Goal 5: PSU will distinguish itself as a holistic health and wellness-centered environment. Having this goal demonstrates the expanding impact that the Healthy PSU campaign is having on the organization’s culture of health.
Healthy PSU is designed as a community-based participatory project, which is key to accomplishing cultural shifts. As such, leadership is mainly accomplished by listening. The program has actively engaged the employees across all divisions. I have been a member of the community as well, participating in the initiative and encouraging others to take advantage of the opportunities that they have helped to formulate and that help them to make healthy behavior changes that fit their lifestyle. Our Wellness Champions are empowered to be instrumental in communication and promotion; I provide them with guidance and tools necessary to deliver consistent messages and information about our Healthy PSU. These dedicated community members have helped ensure that a culture of wellness is “top-of-mind”. I would advise other wellness practitioners to consider establishing and broadening networks to ensure that all within an organization have access to engagement.
As a Registered Dietitian and health promotion professional, I have contributed to the advancement of the industry by engaging and empowering individuals and organizations in the worksite, community site and healthcare site to make choices that lead to better health outcomes. To me, it is imperative that interventions align with best-practices and scientific evidence. At Plymouth State University, we communicate and implement our initiatives in a variety of ways to ensure that we are inclusive vs. exclusive in all of our wellness programming. We are passionate about building mindfulness in our wellness culture by promoting wellness breaks and walking meetings during the work day and providing local healthy food choices through our Farm-To-Desk program. We provide monthly workshops that build skills for managing stress, healthy eating and cooking and encourage daily physical actively though walking. We provide weekly group sessions for yoga and meditation.
In the next 5 years, I see tremendous opportunities to motivate our aging workforce through empowerment which I believe will be critical in all aspects of our wellness programming in order to elicit healthy behavior change. I believe that employers are concerned now more than ever with rising healthcare costs and are looking to the health promotion professionals for guidance on organizational wellness. I am beginning a course of graduate study which will focus on personal and organization wellness using transformational strategies. I feel that this advanced study will allow me to infuse the Healthy PSU campaign with the next level of cultural shifts towards organizational health.