PALM BEACH GARDENS | “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good,” says the “Catechism of the Catholic Church ” (2288).
In line with the catechism, for the seventh year in a row the Diocese of Palm Beach’s Employee Wellness Program has been recognized for excellence by the South Florida Business Journal as a Healthiest Employers Award honoree.
Carol Waring, wellness coordinator of the diocese, sees a close connection between her work and how the faithful are to view the health of themselves and others.
“I feel like God gave us one body, and we have to be good stewards of that body that he gave us,” she said. “The program itself is for employees who are working for the Catholic schools, for the churches and parishes. What this does is provide them an opportunity to take care of that one body and soul that we have.”
Holding her current position since June 2011, shortly after the diocese began the program, Waring said even many large companies don’t have a coordinator responsible for employee wellness.
“That’s one of the key things that drives the program, to have someone in charge of it,” she said. “That’s my primary duty, to make sure that everything gets into place. If someone wants a specific program, I’ll research it. I’ll see what it takes to make it happen. And I try to be a good steward of the funding that it takes to do a program.”
On July 28, the diocese began a series of six Employee Health, Wellness and Safety Expos at parishes and schools throughout the five-county region. Invited to participate are workers in Catholic schools, parishes and diocesan offices. They are receiving free screenings for blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol, plus health coaching and other resources. Mammograms are also available at some of the locations.
Just for attending and completing the health assessment and biometric screenings, employees receive an incentive for their participation.
The results of the health screenings are only shared with the employees. Waring said the diocese receives reports showing how many employees have diabetes, high cholesterol, blood pressure or other conditions.
“We try to gear programs to address those top important issues that are affecting the employee base at that time,” she said. “If we can address an issue before it becomes a chronic issue, then we can help that employee be healthier. And that also cuts down on the cost to the diocese.”
Waring said the program has been a lifesaver for some employees who didn’t know they had conditions that could threaten their lives. She said a woman a few years ago did a bone density screening at a wellness expo and found that her bones were very brittle. Her doctor did an additional scan and got her started immediately on calcium supplements. “She had no idea she had bone issues,” Waring said.
“Many employees have discovered conditions that they didn’t know they had because, unless you feel bad, you don’t go to the doctor. You don’t necessarily feel high blood pressure,” she said. The awareness that employees gain from the program can carry over to their families, potentially helping to prolong many more lives.
Waring’s supervisor, Ana Jarosz, diocesan director of insurance and employee services, said the diocese “takes pride in assisting our employees to develop healthy habits. By doing this, we are helping them avoid health issues that will lead to chronic diseases.
“Among the benefits derived from our wellness program,” she said, “employees are encouraged to make smart choices in the foods they eat and to maintain an exercise routine in their lives. These smart, new habits will reduce the risk of long-term health problems and help them feel more energized and happy throughout their workdays and into their personal lives.”
Besides the in-person expos, the wellness program offers webinars, free flu shots and a page on the diocesan website that lists resources, meal planning and exercise tips, and links to monthly e-newsletters produced by Waring’s office. The webinars, which can be accessed at home, are especially helpful for teachers, who can’t leave their classrooms for an hour to watch a program.
One of Waring’s goals is to get back to hosting more local health industry representatives at the wellness expos, which they got away from because of the pandemic. Even when the pandemic was at its worst, “we were still determined to keep the wellness wheel turning. So, we still had the wellness events with the biometric screening and the mammogram buses and flu shots, but we put extreme safety protocols into place,” she said.
The wellness program has sponsored physical challenges for employees at the Pastoral Center in Palm Beach Gardens, as well as challenges between schools and parishes and individual, personal challenges. Shortly after starting in her job, Waring created a walking challenge in the open area behind the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola and Pastoral Center in which about 50 people participated.
To this day, in a wooden kiosk behind the employee parking lot there are maps detailing quarter-mile and half-mile loops for people to follow for exercise. Those looking to de-stress or work off a few calories are still seen out there.
Waring said she feels blessed to be involved with a program that makes a positive difference in the lives of employees. “My joy is healthy employees are happy employees,” she said. “They will be on the job. There will be a reduction in sick leave because people are taking better care of themselves due to awareness.”
On the wall of Waring’s Pastoral Center office are the many plaques and certificates recognizing the diocese’s efforts to improve and maintain the health of employees. Jarosz is grateful for Waring’s management of the program.
“We offer our congratulations not only to Carol for her leadership of this valuable initiative, but also to all of our employees,” she said. “We look forward to their input and are excited about their enthusiasm and motivation to reach their personal health goals. And we are grateful for the support we receive from all levels of management within our diocese.”
To access the health and wellness information on the diocesan website, visit https://www.diocesepb.org/employment-center/employee-health-wellness/.