Health e-News
Brought to you by Affinity Occupational Health
Good health: Good for business
February/March 2010
In This Issue
Beating Winter Blahs in the Workplace
Pass It On! Find Your Target Heart Rate
What's Happening in Health Care?
Calcium Scoring: The Heart of Employee Health
Saying Goodbye to Laurie
Breakfast With the Experts
Ask the Expert: HRA Personal Profiles
Try This! Stairs Worth Taking
Meet Our Staff
Occ Doc in a Box
Beating Winter Blahs in the Workplace
How to boost employee morale in the dragging winter months
Winter Blahs Face
The lobby Christmas tree is packed away for another year.  That refreshing outdoor walking path you created for the employee wellness program - it's covered in a foot of snow.  Faces are as pale as the cubicle wall upholstery, and if some sunshine doesn't crack through the window slats soon, your staff may spend more time online researching flights to Maui than focusing on the actual work at hand. 

Are the winter blahs threatening your workplace felicity, or worse, productivity?  Following are some tips for boosting employee morale in the long months before spring.

Get 'em Moving
"Exercise increases endorphins, a body chemical that lifts mood and diminishes pain and anxiety," says Bob Carroll, EAP counselor for Affinity Occupational Health.  Fitness programs are an important part of your company's wellness program, especially in the winter months when it's easy to hibernate.  Consider offering an on-site aerobics or yoga class during the lunch break or after hours.  Or, if feasible, build into your annual budget a special employee discount to the local gym during the winter months.  Already have one?  Offer incentives to use it, such as a prize drawing for everyone who visits the gym twice a week or more.

Create a Contest
"Friendly office competition can spark enthusiasm for the work day and give employees something to look forward to," Bob says.  Consider organizing a lunch hour cribbage tournament over a series of weeks, or create a mini-golf league through the halls. 

Go Tropical
Plan a mid-winter spirit week, lunch party or potluck with a tropical island theme.  "A little silliness goes a long way toward feeding workplace cheer," Bob suggests.  Fruity drinks, a steel drum band and leis all around can help staff escape the reality of winter woes and encourage camaraderie.

Pedal Your EAP
For some people, winter blahs are more than a passing annoyance.  "Seasonal affective disorder and depression related to loneliness, financial strains or other troubling circumstances can heighten this time of year, warranting professional counsel.  Encourage employees to utilize their EAP," Bob advises.  Counselors are trained to address depression triggers and provide resources for healing.
Find Your Target Heart Rate - Pass It On!
News to share with employees 
  Heart Rate
Did your New Year's resolution involve a solemn vow to exercise more?  If it did, you're not alone.  And if you've already skipped two workouts this week in favor of a run to the donut shop, well, unfortunately you're not alone there, either.  Whether you're a novice just getting back on the wagon or a long-time fitness freak, it's important to follow your heart when exercising. 

"Exercisers need to be aware of their target heart rate and exercise within that zone for 20 to 60 minutes a session," says Mark Geiger, wellness account specialist with Affinity Occupational Health.  Pushing too hard can deprive your muscles of needed oxygen.  This leads to soreness and fatigue.  Yet, Mark says, pushing too little may not offer enough benefits to your cardiovascular system.

How do you know if you're in your target heart rate zone?  Use the talk test.  "You've found the right intensity if you can carry on a brief conversation while exercising," Mark says.  "Increase your intensity if you can easily carry on a long conversation.  Decrease your intensity if you have trouble getting out a sentence."

For those who prefer the scientific method, follow this simple formula:  220 minus your age, multiplied by .55 to .85.  In other words, your target heart rate is between 55 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. 
For example, for a healthy 40-year-old, target heart rate is between 99 and 153 beats per minute.
220 - 40 = 180 (max heart rate)
180 x .55 = 99
180 x .85 = 153

Mark emphasizes these numbers are for the average person.  Seasoned athletes or people with a heart condition may follow different guidelines.  Ask your doctor what's right for you. 

Resolution or not, it's never too late to kick your rear (and your heart) in gear.  Just keep tabs on your ticker.  "You can make a healthy lifestyle change using your target heart rate as your intensity gauge," Mark advises.  Just remember to pace - not push - yourself.  After all, you're in this for the long run... no pun intended.

Click here to print or forward this article to employees.
What's Happening in Health Care? 
Heart MonthIn your neighborhood and around the globe, here's what's happening in health care.

American Heart Month
February 2010

Since 1963, by a decree of Congress, February is proclaimed "American Heart Month."  The American Heart Association works tirelessly through thousands of volunteers to generate awareness of cardiovascular disease, the nation's #1 cause of death.  For more information, visit

National Wear Red Day
Feb. 5, 2010
National Wear Red Day is a wake-up call to all American women that, "Heart disease doesn't care what you wear - it's the #1 killer of women®."   Show your support for women's heart health by asking employees to wear their favorite red dress, shirt or tie. 

More information and resources are available at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute web site at

Workplace Eye Wellness Month
March 2010
From hazardous equipment to computer screens, many aspects of the workplace can pose a risk to eye health.  Non-profit organization Prevent Blindness America hosts Workplace Eye Wellness Month in March, offering employers resources to encourage proper eye care and preserve healthy sight.  For more information, visit
Calcium Scoring: The Heart of Employee Health

HeartIt's a simple correlation.  Heart health is central to overall health; employee health has a direct impact on the bottom line.  Therefore, one key to keeping costs down is to support your employees' heart-healthy initiatives.

Introducing calcium scoring, a comprehensive screening that gives each patient an accurate, thorough picture of his or her heart health AND recommendations on how to address any risk factors or detected conditions.  For only $100, each patient receives the following evaluations.

  • Ultrafast CT scan of the heart and vascular system
  • Heart risk assessment including family and personal history and diet
  • Blood pressure check
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Lipid panel
  • Blood sugar level
  • Review of current medications
  • Weight/height
  • Best of all - your employees will get their results the SAME DAY, before they leave their appointment.  This includes a one-on-one consultation with a specially trained health care professional to discuss follow-up recommendations.

Consider sponsoring this investment in employee health.  For more information, contact the Affinity Occupational Health Sales team at (920) 727-8700.

Saying Goodbye to Laurie
Laurie RauppSadly, the Affinity Occupational Health team lost a dear member of its family in January.  Laurie Raupp, Affinity EAP counselor, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 10, after a courageous battle with cancer. 

Countless people throughout Oshkosh and the Fox Cities were touched by Laurie's 25-year career as a compassionate nurse and counselor.  Perceptive, kind and encouraging, Laurie had a keen understanding of how life's stresses can affect each individual's well-being.  She worked tirelessly to heal heartache and equip families to face challenges in triumph.

In addition to her work, Laurie was also a Red Cross volunteer and active with ARC.  Reading, biking, travel, music and time spent with her cats were favorite pastimes for Laurie.  She is dearly missed by her husband, Tim, her son Benjamin and his wife Amanda, and her daughter Annie, among many other family members, co-workers and friends.

Expressions of sympathy in Laurie's memory may be given to the American Cancer Society.  Contact Jill Hernandez (727-8717) or Trisha Hummel (720-1090) for more information.
Breakfast with the Experts
STAT HeaderCorporate Wellness as a Companion of Safety and Ergonomics
Presented by Brian Harrison, MD
Affinity Occupational Health
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
7:30 - 9:30 a.m.

Bridgewood Resort and Conference Center
1000 Cameron Way
Neenah, Wis.

To register for this free seminar, contact Tammy Davis at (920) 628-1532 or
Electronic Cigarettes at Work
STAT Header
With the recent push toward tobacco-free workplaces, electronic cigarettes have come under question.  Following is some counsel from Brian Harrison, MD, medical director of Health and Productivity Management for Affinity Health System.

Q:  What is your opinion, or what have other workplaces done once they become tobacco free, regarding the use of the electronic "cigarettes" at work? The question has come up if people will be allowed to use them in the place of cigarettes; the argument being that it is a nicotine delivery system like Commit lozenges, patch, etc.

A:  Employers should ban these devices from the workplace along with tobacco. But, that requires a specific policy statement. The current and upcoming tobacco bans don't cover these devices, and must be amended to do so.  That's because such products don't contain tobacco and don't produce smoke.  They fall outside of most corporate, state, and municipal restrictions, which mainly focus on protection from second-hand smoke. So a company must specifically state that electronic cigarettes and other non-therapeutic nicotine delivery products are banned, too.

Of course the electronic cigarette is categorically different from therapeutic nicotine products (patches, gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray). Therapeutic nicotine products are designed to assist nicotine withdrawal by controlled slow release of pharmaceutical grade nicotine. The Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to market them for that indication.  The manufacturers had to perform safety and efficacy testing to obtain FDA approval.
On the other hand, the electronic cigarette is instead a nicotine addiction device. It achieves that by instantaneous uncontrolled release of non-pharmaceutical nicotine. It is used ad lib instead of per a treatment protocol and dosing schedule. The nicotine dose is determined by how often and how hard it is sucked, just like a cigarette. What that accomplishes is to keep the user addicted to nicotine even while spending much of the day where they can't use tobacco. Then they can smoke as they drive home. This is exactly what tobacco manufacturers hope.  The FDA has not approved them as therapy for any condition.

So, add this statement to your policy: "Because the tobacco-free policy is intended to promote our culture of health and safety, non-therapeutic nicotine delivery devices and products are not allowed on the premises. Only nicotine products that have FDA approval for treatment of tobacco addiction may be used."
Ask the Expert
Kathleen Schiltz
Christine Pongratz, wellness specialist, 
 Affinity Occupational Health
Q:  As an employee that participated in my workplace HRA, what do I do now with the information contained in my personal profile?

A:  The next step after completing your health risk assessment (HRA) is to take a copy of your HRA report to your primary care physician at your next annual physical appointment or next upcoming doctor's visit. First, make sure that you have a hard copy of your health risk report and health screening results in hand before you schedule your appointment. This is important so that when it comes time for your appointment, you have your results in front of you to share with the doctor. The doctor can then review your results with you during your appointment, making you aware of what your health risks are, and then assist you in getting started on making healthy lifestyle changes to begin decreasing your health risks.

Many online HRAs are more than just health questionnaires, offering additional tools and resources to begin making healthy changes. For example, through Affinity Health System's Wellness & Preventive Services department, we offer our health risk assessments through WebMD, which goes beyond the health questionnaire to provide interactive tools and helpful programs.  The Affinity Health System WebMD site contains: a personal health risk report; all health screening test results from years of HRA participation (cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, etc); an online health record for tracking health information; lifestyle improvement programs that assist in making healthy changes to nutrition, weight, stress, smoking cessation and emotional health; and many more resources to begin making healthy changes
Have a question for our experts?  Click here.
Try This!
Workplace Wellness Tip
Stairs Worth Taking
You encourage workers to add a few steps to their pedometers by skipping the elevator and taking the stairs instead.  But what will they see when they get there?  Are the stairwells dreary, forsaken caves of whitewashed concrete?  Easy fix!  "Perking up the stairwells can entice even the most reluctant employee to opt for exercise," says Sandy Campbell, Affinity wellness coordinator.  "All it takes is a little creativity and a roll of sturdy tape."

Host an Art Fair - Invite employees to bring their kids' artwork to work and display it on the stairwell walls.  Or organize a coloring contest for local children and post entries along the stairs, encouraging employees to vote for the winner.

Plant Clues - Motivate employees to get up to speed on pertinent company info by pasting "fun facts" along the walls.  Tie this in with timely workplace themes, such as benefits updates (during open enrollment season), safety rules (during Safety Awareness Week) or information on local festivals and attractions during the summer months. 

Baby Face - For employers who don't mind being silly, post (willing) employees' childhood pictures on the walls and ask employees to identify the faces.  The employee with the most baby-to-coworker matches wins a free pass to the YMCA or other wellness-related prize.

Feed the Fit - Provide complementary baskets of fruit, granola bars or bottles of water at stairwell landings.  Employees hungry for a snack will gladly make the trek in exchange for a tasty (and healthy) reward.

Of course, some employees won't be able to traverse the stairs due to disabilities.  "Make sure it's clear these incentive programs are optional and beneficial to those who can participate," Sandy says.  "The goal is not to alienate, but to motivate."
Meet Our Staff
Mark Geiger
Mark Geiger is a wellness account specialist with Affinity Health System.  In this key role, he provides wellness direction to several Fox Valley companies.  Mark specializes in behavior change, including weight management and tobacco cessation.  An expert in fitness and employee wellness, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise physiology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Prior to joining Affinity, Mark gained his experience at Kimberly-Clark Health Services.  He is very passionate about his work and prides himself in leading a healthy lifestyle, competing frequently in area 5K runs.
Occ Doc in a Box
Want more helpful tips and insight on workplace wellness?  Check out Dr. Harrison's blog, "Occ Doc in a Box," which focuses on topics relevant to the health and safety of your workforce.  Click here to follow it today.
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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