We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) delivers award-winning medical care to children and families across the Rocky Mountain region. If you have ever stepped foot into any of Children’s Colorado’s numerous locations throughout the region, you can feel the cheerful, high-caliber quality of that care. This care, however, does not just reach the hospital rooms and outpatient specialty care facilities, but is extended to employees as well.
The pediatric health care system has been part of the Health Links Healthy Workplace Network™ since 2016 and is one of our tenured customers and partners. Over the last seven years, Children’s Colorado has shown unwavering dedication to putting its people first. At our annual event on October 28, Children’s Colorado will be presented with the first-ever Health Links™ Continued Excellence Award.
“Each year, we are consistently impressed by Children’s Hospital Colorado’s strong commitment to workplace well-being,” says Health Links program manager David Shapiro. “This accolade honors Children’s Colorado’s tenacious dedication to worker health, safety and well-being. Their organization continuously excels in all aspects of the Total Worker Health® approach and maintains high scores on the Healthy Workplace Assessment™ and award applications. This excellence deserves distinguished recognition.”
Health Links’ chief goal is to help organizations achieve Total Worker Health® (TWH), so it is only fitting that the recipient of this award shows dedication in all aspects of the principle. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, TWH is defined as “policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness-prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.”[i] Children’s Colorado shows dedication, putting intention into action, on promoting all three of these categories: employee health, safety and well-being.
Leaders of Children’s Colorado have signed their names under the aptly named Leadership Promise—a set of four commitments from the leaders and organization to team members. One of the four commitments is the promise of a safe and healthy workplace for all employees. “All of our leaders embrace those four leadership promises,” says Heather Fitzgerald, a clinical nurse ethicist and director of Resiliency and Wellness at Children’s Colorado. “They think actively about them when they're rounding with teams or surveilling their environment, making sure that they are leaning into the commitments.”
Children’s Colorado’s efforts in assuring a healthy and safe workplace are serious and far-ranging, including everything from needle sticks, slips, trips, falls, all the OSHA recordable events, all the way to promoting employee mental well-being and providing resiliency support. Fitzgerald breaks these efforts into four domains; (1) promoting psychological well-being; (2) preventing psychological harm; (3) promoting physical well-being; and (4) preventing physical harm.
Using the Healthy Workplace Assessment and goal setting process, Children’s Colorado and Health Links created solutions to show that leadership was committed to the health of employees by “walking the talk” when it came to prioritizing their own mental health and attending company health well-being events.
Management and leadership teams rely on team member feedback to determine their programs. They use ongoing survey tools and focus groups to inform many employee benefits policy initiatives. “We listen intently to our team members because they are our most important asset we have and we want to get it right for our people,” says Fitzgerald.
Encouraging leaders to demonstrate support for employee health, safety and well-being programs is one of the most common recommendations Health Links makes to its customers. Researchers from the Center for Health, Work & Environment have found that leadership support is an essential ingredient for positive workplace health and safety culture.[ii]
When it enrolled with Health Links, Children’s Colorado began working with an advisor to develop a strategy for how the organization could engage leadership and make them more present in wellness events and programs. “Employee health and safety seeps into everything we do,” says Zoe Izard, Benefits and Wellness manager for Children’s Colorado. “We have open, active conversations about adding new programs to fill gaps. There is definitely no hesitation from the leadership team for us to continue to grow and develop the programs around health, safety, wellness and resiliency.” With such strong dedication from the top down, it does not come as a surprise to see the impact these programs make on employees.
Along with ensuring the physical and mental health and safety of team members, Children’s Colorado excels in TWH principles in its emphasis on being a family-friendly workplace. Based on an extensive, company-wide qualitative and quantitative survey from 2018, the Total Rewards team tailored the organization’s employee benefits based on team member feedback. These changes included enhancements to the family leave policy as well as an expansion of lactation rooms throughout all hospitals and administrative offices.
“We know that health benefits for families are extremely important and for the upcoming year, we decided to absorb that cost of premium increases on behalf of team members,” says Izard. “Especially for employees who have their families on the plan, those costs are really important in the family budget.”
The last year and a half has made public something that Children’s Colorado and Health Links have known for quite some time—employee mental health matters. This most acutely pertains to our current healthcare workforce. “We have always valued the health of our employees,” says Stacey Whiteside, director of Experience and Engagement at Children's Colorado, “But in the last two and a half to three years, we have really emphasized mental health and resiliency—thinking about it as a foundational piece that we need to build into our individual team members and teams as a whole. That kind of well-being, wellness and resiliency expansion has been significant.”
Children’s Colorado offers an extensive menu of mental health supports for employees. Its most recent effort to better support employee mental health has been to aggregate every available benefit into a one-stop shop website for employees looking for support. Izard says that the organization is working diligently to continue expanding these supports based on employee feedback.
“Children’s Colorado is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment to support the well-being of our team members,” says David Biggerstaff, Children’s Colorado Chief Operating Officer. “Our team members are at the heart of what we do. Because of their expertise and dedication, Children’s Colorado is one of the nation’s leading and most comprehensive nonprofit pediatric healthcare systems."
It is difficult to truly scratch the surface of just how many ways Children’s Colorado is prioritizing the holistic health of its employees. Health Links is proud to partner alongside the organization as an accountability partner, offering our evaluation, expert advice and subject matter expertise to keep employees healthy, safe and well. We congratulate the Children’s Hospital Colorado on its continued excellence!
Written by Laura Veith, marketing and communications coordinator for the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.