Health e-News
Brought to you by Affinity Occupational Health
Good health: Good for business
Dec. 08/Jan. 09
Happy Holidays from Affinity Occupational Health!  Throughout the year, we appreciate the opportunity to partner with you in building a well workplace through regular editions of Health e-News.  As we head toward the threshold of 2009, our warmest wishes go out to you and your employees for a healthy, happy and productive new year!

In "merry" good health,
Affinity Occupational Health Team
In This Issue
Top 10 Health Investments
Shedding Light on SAD
Pass It On! Cold vs. Flu
Unhappy Holidays
Ask the Expert: Cold Weather Risks
Try This! Healthy Holiday Parties
Meet Our Staff
Breakfast with the Experts
Top 10 Health Investments
How to be healthy, wealthy and wise in the new year and beyond
By Dr. Brian Harrison

Brian HarrisonIllness has become very expensive these days.  So, staying well is more important than ever.  You must keep your body and mind healthy if you want your finances to be healthy, too.

But, like many things, it's easy to be penny wise and dollar foolish.  If you try to save your money by spending nothing on maintaining your health, you will lose your health and your money, too.  Staying healthy requires an investment of a little of your time and a little wisely-spent money.  This will pay you big returns.  It can be the wisest investment you make!

Here are Dr. Harrison's "Top 10 Health Investment Tips of Time and Money." 
1.  Use Your EAP
Learn how to access your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  It costs you nothing.  On the other hand, stress, depression, relationship problems, alcohol or other substance use problems can be very expensive.  The mind and body are continuously connected.  Mental health issues like these can lead to physical illness, and every type of physical illness is made worse by these mental health conditions.  If you are in need, EAP is by far the most economical and accessible resource you can find.

2.  Stop Smoking
If you use tobacco, you must quit.  Even if it hasn't made you sick yet, it costs a bundle to use tobacco, almost $2,000 a year for a pack-a-day smoker.  Once it makes you sick (and it will), your treatment could cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But trying to quit cold turkey, without help, rarely gets the job done.  Only 3 to 5 percent of cold turkey attempts work.  Nicotine addiction is simply too powerful, and it is far too deadly a problem, to not deal with in the most effective way possible.  Read more.
Shedding Light on SAD 
Light in treesBeen feeling blue since winter set in?  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by lack of sunlight.  In areas of the country like Wisconsin where winter days are cold and short and leave little opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, SAD is not uncommon.  It affects up to 20 percent of the population, mostly women in their 20s and 30s.  Learn to recognize the signs of SAD in your workplace so you can prevent productivity from dropping with the temps.

SAD Facts
"Lack of sunlight interrupts the sleep-wake cycle - called circadian rhythms - and it can also drain the body's levels of serotonin, a brain chemical affecting mood," says Daniel Neunaber, PhD, psychologist with Affinity Health System. 

SAD is often treated with light therapy.  "For half an hour a day, sufferers can sit in front of a special light box that mimics the sun and signals the brain to produce more serotonin, lifting mood and relieving symptoms of SAD," says Dr. Neunaber.

SAD Symptoms
SAD usually occurs between November and February, winter's darkest months.  Symptoms start to ease when spring weather returns in March or April.  Common complaints include:
  • grumpy, anxious or irritable mood
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • daytime drowsiness
  • changes in appetite, weight or sleep habits

As with other forms of depression, these symptoms appear in the workplace in the form of poor job performance, calling in sick or squabbling with co-workers.  How can you help?  

Use Your EAP
If you suspect an employee is suffering from seasonal affective disorder, encourage him to get help.  "The EAP is a great place to start," says Dr. Neunaber.  EAP counselors are trained to help workers cope with depression and its related effects.  If further support or treatment is needed, the EAP can connect SAD sufferers with more resources.

Create a Bright Spot
If possible, provide places for employees to soak in some natural light.  It's best if lunch rooms and break areas have windows, but if that's not an option, try adding more lights to the space.  "Dimly lit rooms only compound the problem," says Dr. Neunaber.

Break the Cabin Fever
It may be cold outside, but you don't have to cease all outdoor activities until spring.  Start a winter walking club and venture out for brisk strolls on milder days.  The natural light and exercise can be therapeutic.
Pass It On!
News to share with employees 
Cold vs. Flu
How to Read - and Treat - Your Symptoms 
Brian HarrisonCough, congestion, aches, chills.  'Tis the season for colds and flu.  But which do you have?  And why does it matter?

"Both the common cold and influenza - the flu - are respiratory illnesses, but they're caused by different viruses.  In general, flu symptoms are more severe than the common cold and can lead to complications such as pneumonia or bacterial infections," says Richard Menet, MD, a physician with Affinity Occupational Health.

Get the FACTS
While many cold symptoms can mimic the flu, there are five FACTS that generally point to influenza:
  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden symptoms

Fever, headache, severe body aches and chills are red flags for the flu.  Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose and sore throat are more likely tied to a common cold.  Flu symptoms often appear suddenly, within three to six hours, whereas cold symptoms might appear more gradually.  Both illnesses may make you feel tired, but with the flu this symptom is more extreme.  "Flu sufferers may not be able to function off the couch.  They're likely to sleep all day," Dr. Menet says.  

Stop Flu in Its Tracks
If you suspect you have the flu, it's a good idea to see your doctor right away so he can test for the influenza virus and prescribe an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu.  If taken within 12 to 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, antivirals can stop the flu from spreading throughout your body and shorten the duration of your misery.  "Antivirals can also reduce the incidence of influenza-related lower respiratory tract complications such as pneumonia," says Dr. Menet. 

"Just" a Cold
Cold symptoms can drag you down, but over-the-counter medications can help.  "Just be sure not to take medication for symptoms you don't have," advises Dr. Menet.  "Cold medicines are formulated for every possible combination of symptoms, so you should be able to find one tailored to what ails you."

Unlike antivirals, however, cold meds don't attack the virus - they just relieve symptoms.  The only cure for the common cold is time.

Keep Yourself and Others Healthy
Remember, prevention is the best medicine.  Ward off winter bugs by washing your hands often, and get a flu shot.  If you are struck by a nasty virus, do your co-workers a favor and take a sick day.  Some things are best kept to yourself. 

Click here to print or forward this article to employees.

Unhappy Holidays 
Depression Intervention Services
Feeling blue"Have a holly jolly Christmas... it's the best time of the year!"  That's fine for a song, but real life is not always so cheerful.  For some, the holidays come wrapped in stress or sadness.  Family circumstances, loneliness, unrealistic agendas and expectations, seasonal affective disorder - these are just some of the triggers leading to unhappy holidays. 

Affinity Occupational Health offers a depression intervention tool to help your employees recognize and get help for their depression.  This web-based interactive screening invites participants to take a confidential self-assessment of their symptoms and struggles.  Based on their answers, they are directed to follow up with the appropriate treatment provider including EAP and/or their primary care physician. 

For more information, call us at (920) 727-8700 and ask for Lisa or Holly in the Sales department.
Ask the Expert
Chris Westra
Dr. Christopher Westra, Affinity Occupational Health

Q. What increased risks does cold weather present to my workforce, and how can I mitigate these risks?

Cold weather can directly injure the body, exacerbate physical injury and cause injury through alterations in the usual physical properties.  Invariably all these injuries can be prevented with aggressive preparation. Read more.

Have a question for our experts?  Click here.
Try This!
Workplace Wellness Tip
Healthy Holiday Parties 
Christmas party
You work hard all year round to encourage healthy habits in your employees - why blow it in the name of holiday cheer?  Office Christmas parties can be a part of your wellness efforts, not their undoing. Here's how:

Serve a Rainbow
Hors d'oeuvre displays can be a feast for the eyes - not the hips - by choosing colorful, nutrient-packed edibles such as raw fruits and vegetables, black bean salsa with blue corn chips, boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce or salmon fillets with whole-grain crackers.  Think simple, natural recipes: if it's drowning in fat or fillers, don't serve it.

Shrink the Sugar
Ok, so the holidays aren't the holidays without a few sweets at the table.  But be aware that party-goers are suckers for the power of suggestion.  If you offer brownies as big as Santa's sleigh, they will eat them.  Likewise, bite-sized servings satisfy the sweet tooth without breaking the calorie bank.  Offer a variety of desserts in mini cupcake papers for festive portion control.

Play Reindeer Games
Here's a wild idea - focus on fun, not food.  Hire a band so guests can dance the night away, or plan a competition with big prizes.  Pictionary, a treasure hunt, a billiard tournament... it doesn't matter what activity you choose.  If it offers a chance to win a flat screen HDTV, guests will play. 
Meet Our Staff
Brian Harrison
Brian Harrison, MD, is the medical director of Health and Productivity Management for Affinity Health System.  In this role, he provides care and community outreach to workforces throughout the Fox River Valley and Oshkosh. 

A specialist in occupational medicine since 1992, Dr. Harrison's areas of expertise include workers' compensation care and disability management; occupational injury and illness detection, management and prevention; medical assessments for regulatory compliance, hazard surveillance and fitness for duty; and advising companies on work site safety and wellness programs.  

As a consultant in health and productivity management, Dr. Harrison provides employers with preventive options to respond to rising health care costs and health-related productivity losses.  These include individual as well as population risk and disease burden assessments, with solutions including risk reduction, disease and demand management.  A recognized expert in the field, Dr. Harrison has given presentations to local business groups and organizations as well as at national conferences throughout the country.

His favorite professional interest is helping people quit smoking, both through individual doctor-patient interaction, and in programs that can benefit entire working populations.

Dr. Harrison has been married 31 years to his high school sweetheart.  They have five children.  The Harrisons are active in St. Pius Catholic Church, including the marriage preparation program in which they meet with engaged couples at their home.  They enjoy biking, hiking and cross-country skiing.   
Upcoming Breakfast with the Experts
January 14, 2009
7:30 - 9:30 a.m. 
Bridgewood Resort & Conference Center
Neenah, WI
"It's Not My Fault"
Part II of Understanding Brain Chemistry and Emotions in the Workplace
Presented by
 Affinity Occupational Health Employee Assistance Program

To register for this free seminar, contact Jill Hernandez at (920) 727-8717 or
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Your Affinity Occupational Health Sales Team
Lisa Kogan-Praska, sales and marketing manager for Affinity Occupational Health, focuses on developing programs and services to fit each client's unique needs.  Lisa has more than 13 years of professional experience in the health care industry, including eight years specializing in occupational health and wellness. 

Holly Tomlin, sales and marketing representative for Affinity Occupational Health, enjoys building relationships with clients while finding creative solutions for their needs.  Holly's background includes 13 years of experience in the health care field, with a strong background in employee assistance programs and occupational health. 

Tammy Davis, customer account liaison for Affinity Occupational Health, provides immediate response to customer service requests.  She works closely with Lisa and Holly to coordinate educational programs and provide clients with valuable services information.  Tammy has 13 years of experience in marketing, sales and customer service.

To contact Lisa, Holly or Tammy, call the Affinity Occupational Health office located in Menasha, at 1-800-541-0351, or e-mail, or