The Importance of Worksite Wellness Programs

By Hannah Parrish

Beat the heatThis summer, I planned, implemented, and evaluated a five-week worksite wellness program called BEAT THE HEAT for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District (WMCPHD). I am graduating from Baylor University this August with my bachelor’s degree in Public Health. As a part of my summer internship, I was given the opportunity to connect my studies to public health practice. My experience with BEAT THE HEAT has allowed me to grow in my understanding of public health in many ways, but it has specifically taught me the importance of worksite wellness programs.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), worksite wellness programs can help “maintain and improve the health of employees,” and they can also reduce the employees’ risk of developing “costly chronic diseases” (WH 101 Resource Manual). According to the Worksite Health 101 Resource Manual developed in partnership by Viridian Health Management LLC and the CDC in 2016, a healthier workforce can lead to “lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims,” and it can also “positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity” (WH 101 Resource Manual).

The worksite wellness program, BEAT THE HEAT, was designed with the mission to equip the employees of the WMCPHD with the tools and resources necessary to promote total wellness in their daily lives. On a broader scale, BEAT THE HEAT offered accountability, motivation, and education to the staff of the WMCPHD in an effort to instill long-term practices of wellness. BEAT THE HEAT carried out these missions through a period of five-weeks, and the program included motivational, educational, and accountability components. The program allowed the employees of the WMCPHD to focus on several dimensions of wellness, and encouraged them to make daily choices that would “add up.” The employees were provided weekly activity logs, and each activity focused on a different dimension of wellness. A certain number of points were designated to each activity on the log, and the activity logs changed week to week. By the end of the five-week program, the top five individuals with the most points earned chose their prizes.

I partnered with local businesses, The Mix Café, Oh My Juice!, and D1 Sports Training, to ensure that nutritionally and physically healthy prizes were offered to program participants as incentives. BEAT THE HEAT was marketed through the use of informational and motivational flyers, which were administered to the staff of the WMCPHD to generate interest. About half of the WMCPHD participated in the program, which doubled my initial goal of reaching twenty participants. Here’s what a few participants had to say about the program:

“This program encouraged me to add different wellness activities into my daily health regimen…activities that I would not normally participate in on my own.” – Janet Jones

“I have definitely gained a lot from the past 5 weeks, even though I consider myself a pretty healthy person to begin with.  This program has been great because everyone can gain something from it. BEAT THE HEAT made me more intentional about some aspects of wellness that often get overlooked, such as getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Knowing that you’re going to have to submit your points at the end of the week is a great motivator.  I would start trying to talk myself out of a workout and then remember – I need those points!” – Katy Stone 

My experience with the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program has taught me the importance of planning, implementing, and evaluating wellness programs in every workplace. I learned that wellness is only truly achieved when every dimension is viewed as an impacting factor. In 2015, about 70% of employers in the United States offered a “general wellness program” in their workplace (Forbes). While this estimation is higher than I predicted, there is always room for growth in the areas of specificity and goals of these programs. Does your worksite incorporate a monthly, quarterly, or yearly wellness program? If not, now is the time to start. Many worksites have a wellness coordinator to create wellness programs for employees. If you are interested in some ideas for wellness programs, the DSHS has compiled a list here. Many worksite wellness programs focus on physical and nutritional wellness; I decided to include every dimension of wellness in BEAT THE HEAT because every factor is important and contributes to our total wellness.

Finally, through my experience, I learned that creativity is key, and each person is different in their interests; these realizations made for a diverse program. I thoroughly enjoyed planning, implementing, and evaluating the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District!

Hannah ParishHannah Parrish moved to Waco in August 2013 to attend Baylor University. She received her degree in Public Health from Baylor in three years, and had the opportunity to intern at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District during her final summer in Waco. She loves traveling, fitness, community, coffee, and reading. She hopes to spend the next year teaching English overseas, and subsequently attend nursing school.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

The Innkeeper

By Liz Ligawa

For a long time, I adhered to a belief system which denied a connection between personal experiences and collective realities.  The individualism in which my upbringing was brined did not fully prepare me to dignify the personal realities of others.  I filed the stories of others as exceptions to the truths I already held…well, that was until I began to realize how much the stories I dismissed shared similar characteristics, outcomes, properties, etc.  So, I began to wonder, “Could my estimations be wrong?”  Thankfully, my novice perspectives were challenged, and I grew to appreciate how the truth of individual experience sheds light on systemic or, collective realities.  It is a good thing this transformation occurred before I found myself in social work as a community practitioner.

So, here I am.  I joined the Prosper Waco team as the Director of Community Engagement on August 1st, and I am grateful for the strong ways my theological, and social work training prepared me to understand, and affect change in systems which can function to oppress, or marginalize- even when those are not the intended consequences.  If you cannot tell, advocacy is my strong suit.

By now, you might be wondering: “What does this post have to do with its title?”  Well, it is a little embarrassing to admit, but even with one month at the organization under my belt, the hardest question for me to answer is still, “What is Prosper Waco?”  Now, now…before you encourage my boss to consider replacing me with someone else with greater acumen, let me just say, this is not an easy question to answer.  Ask my boss.

One of the reasons I think I have had a hard time putting Prosper Waco into a more familiar context (even for myself) is that it is an organization which has philanthropic roots, but colloquial branches.  Let me explain what I mean.  Philanthropy, or its Greek beginnings, φιλανθρώπως, adds up to acting humanely, kindly, or promoting the welfare of others.  Although the activities of Prosper Waco are philanthropic in the sense that they are driven to promote others’ welfare, the initiative does not fit a popular interpretation of philanthropy- one that has a monetary expression of benevolence.  Instead, it operates, philanthropically, through collaboration among structures (organizations, companies, institutions, etc.) which already exist, and are familiar to the local community.

So, what does this have to do with the innkeeper?  Well, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, there seems to be just one hero; or we think of the parable with our focus narrowed to just one helpful way to respond.  But do we limit the good we can do by only filling the role of the Samaritan?  In saying that, I realize there are several layers to this story.  There are strong themes to be mined about the culture, biases, and social context- but that’s a study for another time.  What I am curious about, however, is how our view of this narrative shapes, and informs our perspective on altruism.  Do narratives like the Good Samaritan encourage altruistic behavior?  I am not yet convinced.

Personally, I feel that the parable is more of a “calling out” than it is a “calling to”, but I also cannot ignore its utility in the conversations around who receives our help.  However, what I think is important to pay attention to is the emphasis, and in my opinion, over-emphasis on individual efforts towards help.  I wonder if we are less-likely to help if we feel like we are the only ones that can help.  And if we approach helping others with the idea that it is all up to our individual efforts, how does that influence our interactions with our neighbor, and what do we miss by not seeing how others are also helping?

What I see when I look at this parable is philanthropy administered through collaboration, trust, relationship, and hope.  I see collaboration because after the Samaritan placed the man on his donkey, he did not take him home.  He took him to the inn.  I see trust because when the Samaritan arrived at the inn, he did not stay with the dying man, but he entrusted him to the care of the Innkeeper.  I see relationship because the Samaritan informed the Innkeeper that he would pay for additional costs on his return, and the Innkeeper agreed.  I see hope because the Samaritan and the Innkeeper had to feel that their combined efforts would make a difference in the life they had encountered.

Promoting the welfare of others takes this type of attention…collaboration, trust, relationship, and hope.  The dying man received help from what was already existing.  We have a full cast of characters in our community.  We have the wounded.  We have those who tend to help in individual ways; but since they become easily overwhelmed with work that requires partnership, they go the other way if they can’t accomplish it alone. Most importantly, though, we also have those who are interested in what good we can to together.  No, we do not adhere to the single story of the Samaritan being the only hero.  We gladly accept the role of the Innkeeper.

 liz ligawa - 2Elizabeth Ligawa is a recent graduate from Truett Theological Seminary, and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, earning both her Master of Divinity, and Master of Social Work.  Though her prized role is being a mother to her dear son, Elijah, Liz has a love for encouraging people to come together in ways that engender healthy communities.  Her role as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco allows her the room to work in and among the many faces of her beloved Waco community. She may be reached at

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.






Hidden Abuse : a reflection and book review

by Jennifer Alumbaugh, LMFT

I’ve had the honor of reading an advance copy of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, LCSW in exchange for my feedback and honest review.  Even before this book came out, I have been impressed with the integrity of Thomas’ reflections on psychological, emotional, and spiritual abuse from both the theological and the psychological standpoint.  As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a degree in Theology and a personal history in a number of church communities, it is not often I encounter material that resonates with such unapologetic and unfaltering truth.  Thomas’ Healing from Hidden Abuse is one such book.

recognizingHealing from Hidden Abuse is organized into several parts: introduction with background on the 2016 research project, “Examining Patterns of Psychological Abuse;” moving into the Basics of Psychological Abuse—a kind of 101 primer for anyone previously unfamiliar; the Six Stages of Recovery: Despair, Education, Awakening, Boundaries, Restoration, Maintenance; an address to family and friends of survivors; a resource section including a bibliography; and a collection of personal reflection and journal prompts to move the reader through their own process or to facilitate group process.

In both my personal healing process and my professional clinical work with clients, when I consider materials to use or recommend, I look for several things:

Does the material have substance?  I tend to shy away from materials that are too geared toward the beginner in self-awareness.  I want something that is accessible to both the novice and the seasoned professional.  I look for content that will inform, challenge, and inspire me.

Is the information clinically sound?  Is there research and data that backs up the claims the author is making?  Does the author have personal and/or professional experience in the field? —I want to be able to trust the author.  I also evaluate whether or not the content holds water when I consider my own research, education, training, and clinical experience.

Is it clinically substantial while at the same time accessible to laypeople who are not mental health professionals and who may not be as familiar with the language of the profession?  I want to use material that can connect with people who are engaging from a variety of professions, education levels, and experiences.

Is the language inclusive and intersectional?  Is there an over-all cultural competence across a variety of identities?  Especially in this time, I keep a look out for material that is gender and identity inclusive and retains minimal to no assumptions about identity and relationships.

Is there any bias in the content—skewed toward one experience over another—rather than encompassing the broad range of possible experiences?

most peopleI’m pleased to report that Thomas’ work meets or exceeds my criteria, for the most part.  While there is attention to dispelling the myths about abusers being only certain genders, there is a use of binary gender terms.

This book is deeply relevant and meaningful to anyone who has survived psychological and spiritual abuse from parents, pastors, partners, co-workers, friends, and others in their community.  Beyond my resounding recommendation of this book to anyone who has or is surviving “Hidden Abuse,” I recommend it to anyone who loves, supports, is friends with a survivor.  The education and insight available in this book is valuable to anyone striving to cultivate healthy, authentic, and loving relationships free from toxic dynamics.

In addition to being a mental health professional who supports others in their healing and recovery process, I have personally experienced psychological and spiritual abuse and continue to do the work of maintaining my recovery.  It is these experiences especially which have motivated and inspired me to enrich my education and training in this specific area in order to be able to serve clients in need of this particular healing work.  I center my own work as well as the process through which I guide my clients, in love and truth.  What comes under attack with psychological and spiritual abuse is the truth, and learning to trust one’s self, one’s own intuition, and even one’s own spiritual experience is a core component in the healing process.  Many survivors of psychological abuse have had the profoundly invalidating experience of not being believed when they reach out to others for help.  If you receive nothing else from this blog post, I hope it is this truth:

I believe you.  You matter.  Your experiences, your pain, your grief, is real.  There is a way out of despair.  You don’t have to suffer alone or in silence.  You are worthy of Love.  You deserve to live a thriving life, as your whole and authentic self.

small empoweringI will be using this text in my practice with clients individually, as a group facilitator, and as a professional development consultant providing trainings to various community agencies—police departments, domestic violence programs and shelters, and other mental and social service organizations.  If you have had or think you may have had an experience with psychological or spiritual abuse and would like some support in sorting through the recovery process, or if you are connected to an agency interested in a professional development training on psychological abuse, please contact me through the Enrichment Contact Us page.

Jennifer Alumbaugh-2Jennifer Alumbaugh, MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist providing clinical and professional development consultation services at Enrichment Training and Counseling Solutions. She has extensive experience working with adolescent and adult survivors of psychological and spiritual abuse, trauma (sexual violence, childhood trauma, interpersonal violence); and complex PTSD. These, along with grief and loss work are her areas of specialization.  Jennifer practiced as a mental health clinician throughout Los Angeles County working with children, youth, and their families from 2007-2012. In Central Texas, Jennifer has worked as a Site Coordinator with Communities in Schools of The Heart of Texas at G.W. Carver Middle School; as an independent consultant and professional development trainer; and conference speaker. In 2016 Jennifer created an implemented a therapeutic creative writing program, Brave Young Voices, at Klaras Center for Families and at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department correctional campus at Mart, TX.  She may be reached at: or 254-405-2496.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.