By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Every spring, the Montana Association of Health Care Purchasers hosts a powerful two-day workplace wellness conference. The keynote presenters are leading experts in their field and the breakout sessions offer further solutions to current issues that are wreaking havoc on the health of our bodies, minds and bottom lines.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from this year’s conference, held in Billings May 11-12:

1. Stress is a primary health concern in the workplace. Providing stress management tools and education is critical to the health of our companies and country. Mental health is on the radar of both health care providers and employers, and we are making great strides as a society in removing the stigma around it.

Check out the website rightdirectionforme.com for resources that bring awareness and solutions to depression and stress in the workplace.

2. Smart phones are being used as great tools for health-related behavior change, self-empowerment, as well as access to and understanding of medical records. Check out the app Hello Heart that allows users to monitor their heart rate and reduce hypertension and heart disease through personalized self-management.

3. While studies show that prevention is the key to preserving our health and bottom line, we continue to operate from a model that primarily addresses full-blown disease. This is still proving to be a financially irresponsible model.

4. Even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, America is still spending far more per person than any other developing country.

5. According to Michigan State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman, poverty in the U.S. is a fundamental health problem. We must find a new and better way to address this in order to bolster a healthier and financially sustainable society.

6. Every company has a culture whether it’s intentional or not. Companies that create a culture of health excel in employee attraction and retention, have lower turnover, less absenteeism, and reduced medical claims.

7. Make the healthy choice the easy choice. Several companies with cafeterias are starting to put a heavy tax on junk foods like sodas and macaroni and cheese, while subsidizing their healthier whole food options. This makes the healthy choice the economically smart choice.

8. Total well being, work that provides a sense of purpose and community connection is not only important to the largest work force now in America—the millennials, born between 1985 and 2005—but even more so to the up and coming Generation Z of people born between 2005 and 2025. I’m grateful they’re bringing us back to sensible core values.

9. Conscious communication is a key component to building stronger work forces. Being clear on goals and vision; encouraging autonomy; speaking kindly and honestly without being passive aggressive; and being a good listener keep channels of communication open, reduces stress and builds morale.

10. The fastest way to shift culture is by enforcing relevant policies. Consider cigarette smoking: We have seen a massive and swift cultural shift in the number of U.S. smokers as policies have made smoking cigarettes in public spaces illegal.
If this type of information is of interest to you, I encourage you to visit the site mahcp.org to register for the 2017 Montana conference. I look forward to seeing you there next year!

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@corehealthmt.com