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IHS Headquarters Employee Wellness Program

Indian Health Service
Rockville, Maryland 20852

Refer to: OPH


Effective Date:  11/29/2002


  1. PURPOSE.  The purpose of this Indian Health Service (IHS) circular is to establish an IHS Headquarters Employee Wellness Program.  The objective of the Wellness Program is to encourage employees to participate in physical fitness program and health promotion/disease prevention programs, including nutrition and mental health, coordinated through the work site.  Participation is voluntary.  All IHS Headquarters employees have an opportunity to participate in this model Wellness Program.  This program can be used by other administrative offices and communities throughout Indian Country to improve the quality of life for the participants.

  2. BACKGROUND.  Employee wellness programs have been shown to result in increased productivity and reduced absenteeism as well as overall improved employee morale.  The recent Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) showed that people at high risk for diabetes who exercised and made other lifestyle changes reduced their incidence of diabetes.  Lifestyle interventions were also identified to be more effective than the use of drugs.

    The 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Fitness stated that physical inactivity is a serious national health problem.  Factors impacted by a lack of physical activity include heart disease and obesity, which is on the rise.  Healthy People 2010 goals emphasize the importance of increasing physical activity and fitness, and focus on related health indicators such as nutrition, obesity, and tobacco use.  Lifestyle changes can impact chronic disabling diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

    Studies show that physically active people manage stress better, sleep better, and feel better.  They are also likelier to be healthier, which means they are absent less often from work and for shorter periods of time.  A healthier workforce can produce lower health care costs, better employee morale, lower turnover, and enhanced recruitment.

    Finally, the President has recently issued Executive Order #13266 to improve the efficiency and coordination of Federal policies related to the personal fitness of the general public.  All Operating Divisions (OPDIVs) must provide an account of activities promoting personal fitness and a checklist of employee health programs.  As part of the Executive Order, a Personal Fitness Interagency Working Group is being created and all OPDIVs will participate.

  3. AUTHORITY.  Since 1946 Federal agencies have been authorized to establish, within the limits of appropriations available, employee health programs to promote and maintain the physical and mental fitness of employees.  Employee health services that agencies may offer under 5 U.S.C. § 7901 include:
    1. Emergency Response/First Aid
    2. Administration of Treatments and Medications
    3. Physical Examinations
    4. Environmental Health Hazards Appraisals
    5. Health Education
    6. Health Services/Intervention Programs
    7. Disease Screening and Immunizations
    8. Physical Fitness Programs and Facilities

  4. POLICY.  The IHS encourages its employees to increase their physical activity; promote responsible dietary habits; increase their use of preventive health screenings; and make healthy choices regarding alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, and safety.

    Employees who choose to participate in the Wellness program will be allowed one-half hour during each workday for such activities as walking, running, or other exercise.  This will give employees an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives by relieving stress from the workday and may allow them to build improved relationships with other IHS employees through group exercise and health-promotion activities.

    Participants will be required to record their physical activity on the following website: or make alternative arrangements with their supervisor to record their physical activity.  Reports will be generated from a database created from the compilation of employees' physical activities records.  The data will document the percentage of organizational participation and participant goal completion.

  5. RESPONSIBILITIES.  The Wellness Committee will coordinate the Wellness Program.  Team Captains and supervisors will provide encouragement and support participation.
    1. INDIVIDUALS.  All employees who participate in the Wellness Program will develop their own fitness goals, related to healthy lifestyles.  Each individual will be eligible for incentives for program participation and point-goal completion.  Individuals will:
      1. Keep track of their time spent on physical activities through a web-based program that has a daily log to record activities.
      2. Record daily physical activity in 10-minute blocks of time, with the goal of being active at least 30 minutes most days (per recommendations from the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity).  For each 10 minutes of physical activity, one point is scored.  The use of a numeric score allows a quantitative target to be set and evaluated by the participants.
    2. TEAMS.  Teams will be developed based on the Headquarters organizational structure, i.e., Office of Public Health (OPH), Office of Management Support (OMS), and Office of the Director (OD).
    3. TEAM CAPTAINS.  Team Captains will:
      1. Be eligible for incentives for recruiting more than 50 percent program participation and when 75 percent of the team complete their goals.
      2. Collect data from employees periodically to see how they are progressing in meeting their individual goals.
    4. WELLNESS COMMITTEE.  The Wellness Committee will coordinate monthly education activities on a variety of topics including stress management, quality of work life, physical activity, mental wellness, and nutrition.  The feasibility of an on-site fitness center is being researched.

  6. INCENTIVES.  An incentive system will be established to reward participants and Team Captains.  Incentives will include recognition and items that are identified by the Wellness Committee, e.g., recognition at staff meetings, time off, t-shirts, and certificates.

  7. PROGRAM EVALUATION.  Individual and team data will be analyzed, and an overall evaluation of the Wellness program will be completed after 2 years.

  8. SUPERSEDURE.  Paragraph No. 2, ?Approval of IHS Quality of Work Life Issues,? memorandum from Director, IHS, to the Director, Division of Human Resources, dated April 9, 1997.

  9. EFFECTIVE DATE.  This Circular is effective on the date of signature.

/Charles W. Grim, D.D.S./
Charles W. Grim, D.D.S., M.H.S.A.
Assistant Surgeon General
Interim Director

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