Members of the Wellness Connection’s Employer Network at their monthly meeting in August. Each month, representatives from 21 employers in Merrimack and Sullivan counties meet as part of the Employer Network Wellness Roundtable to support employee wellness in the region. The meetings feature a different expert each month speaking on a variety of topics related to workplace wellness – from developing worksite wellness policies to supporting work-life balance for employees and creating family-friendly workplaces. In August, the featured speaker, Liz Hennig, MBA, and Certified Prevention Specialist for the State of NH, presented on behavioral health in the workplace.

The Employer Network, a subgroup of the The Wellness Connection for a Healthy Lake Sunapee Region, collaborates on programs and shares information about policy changes. In one instance, after their monthly guest speaker, Jenna Schiffelbein, Community Health Educator at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, presented on a variety of wellness policy suggestions and offered to review draft policies. Based on some of her suggestions, New London Hospital recently implemented a Lactation Accommodation Policy to provide a supportive environment to enable employees to breastfeed or express their milk during work hours. The hospital also adopted a Healthy Nutrition Policy that promotes education and healthy nutrition choices through their cafeteria, vending machines, internal communication and education, and community work.

There is even some friendly competition between the Employer Network organizations. For instance, Ledyard Bank started the “Live Well Walking Challenge” in 2015 with four employers participating. When Ledyard joined the Employer Network earlier this year and explained the program, eight employers joined the walking challenge. Together, those nine employers are promoting the challenge to employees and their families, asking them to keep track of their steps for four weeks in September. The goal is to encourage physical activity, support the health of their employees, and, of course, to have the most steps walked of any participating company in the region!

The Wellness Connection coalition started in 2013, when New London Hospital received an anonymous, unrestricted donation of $700,000. The hospital’s board decided to invest the funds in improving community health; they engaged partners and together they developed a strategic plan under a collective impact model. The plan includes developing a multi-sector wellness coalition which currently serves 16 communities and under that umbrella, support a regional employer network to share information and improve the effectiveness of worksite wellness programs. New London Hospital, the backbone organization for the coalition, has a full-time employee, Catherine Bardier, Director of Wellness and Community Health, who works to support and grow the coalition.

According to Catherine, the coalition decided to focus on worksite wellness programs because it benefits the entire community. It not only improves employee health, but it can also create healthy habits within families. Employers can also experience better employee morale, lower insurance costs, higher productivity, and become more attractive to top employee recruits.

The Wellness Connection has been an active member of the HEAL NH network since 2013. The coalition also serves as the HEAL subgroup for the Greater Sullivan County Public Health Advisory Council (GSC PHAC). According to Catherine, HEAL NH has been a great resource in supporting the coalition – even helping to find presenters for the monthly speaker series. “The HEAL NH network has become my network,” said Catherine. “Unless you’re connected to a group like HEAL NH, you may not know who to call when you have a question about data resources, how to grow your coalition, or how to find experts that can speak on a particular topic.”

For additional information on the Wellness Connection at New London Hospital, click here to watch The Kearsarge Chronicle interview Catherine Bardier, Director of Wellness and Community Health at New London Hospital. Catherine discusses the third year of the Wellness Connections project at New London Hospital. 

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