Iowa’s public health lab is a Blue Zones organization — What does that mean?

Iowa’s public health lab is a Blue Zones organization — What does that mean?

Article by Bill Christensen, environmental supervisor and Blue Zones Organization member, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa

Admit it. You want to get paid for working and having fun, too. Who wouldn’t? You get that when you work at the State Hygienic Laboratory (Iowa’s public health lab), the nation’s healthiest laboratory as awarded in 2015 by the Association of Public Health Laboratories. Now we’ve added a new dimension to workplace satisfaction – our designation as a Blue Zones Organization.

Blue Zones Organizations are groups that support the Blue Zones Project, which helps people make healthier choices more easily through permanent changes to the work environment, policies and social networks.

Many of us take our health for granted and never know what the future holds. Sometimes we imagine ourselves doing something about it, but just don’t know where to begin or can’t sustain it with a lifestyle change. We spend over a third of our daily lives at work, so why shouldn’t we turn that into something better for us, our employer and our co-workers? That’s where the Wellness Workgroup for the State Hygienic Lab comes in.

“The workgroup regularly meets together utilizing a holistic approach to provide people healthier options at the workplace,” says Rick Bonar, chair of the Wellness Workgroup and admin services specialist. “We are looking for an engaged workforce to model public health,” he adds.

To do this, the workgroup sets up diverse activities at different times to get as many participants as possible, and is open to suggestions. Events include after-work bike rides, skin cancer screenings, organized walks, wellness speakers, massages and yoga, to name a few.

“Yoga is taking off beautifully,” says Amanda Hughes, another workgroup member, event participant/organizer and environmental manager.

Blue Zones Organizations work through environmental and program checklist items to make healthy choices easier for participants. “We are pursuing the designation of a Blue Zones Organization within the University of Iowa’s Blue Zones Worksite designation to further demonstrate our laboratory’s dedication to creating a healthy and supportive workplace,” says Drew Fayram, workgroup member bicycle ride organizer/enthusiast and coordinator of the lab’s Center for the Advancement of Laboratory Science.

In the end, the decision to live a healthy lifestyle is a personal one, but the support of those around us may be the little nudge we need to make lasting changes and improve our own state of wellness. Overall, we may become more resilient and productive people. Who wouldn’t want that?

Photo: Gathered with gear used for wellness activities are (back row, from left) Barb Shirazi, Maternal Screening clinical lab technical specialist; Bill Christensen, Air Quality environmental supervisor; Rick Bonar, Admin services specialist; Sherri Marine, Client Services manager; and Kristi Rotzoll, CLIA compliance specialist; (kneeling, from left) Drew Fayram, coordinator of the Center for the Advancement of Laboratory Science, and Amanda Hughes, Air Quality environment manager.  These seven represent State Hygienic Laboratory staff who participate in wellness activities that qualify the Coralville location as a Blue Zones Organization.

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