A Practitioner's Wellness Prescription
Dr. Rashmi Gulati, medical director of Patients Medical in New York City since 2004, knows that a worker who commits to long-term health benefits himself -- but the employer also is enriched, she said.
- By Jerry Laws
- Apr 01, 2010
Too many Americans live unhealthy lives, and the jobs we do are partly to blame, said Rashmi Gulati, M.D., medical director of Patients Medical in New York City since 2004, where she and other medical professionals team with their patients in a holistic treatment program that involves healthy diet and exercise. The practice began in 2004, and today at least 60 to 100 patients come in for help every day.
"All of us are on the go, and we do not take the time to eat properly or healthfully, so we end up eating fast food or junk food -- instant sources of energy," Gulati said during a recent interview. "Even our breakrooms have the worst things to show; when I worked in a hospital, the breakrooms had only vending machines with cookies, sodas, and juices filled with sugars."
It doesn't matter whether you're a factory worker, a business worker, or the CEO of a company -- this unhealthy choice would affect all workers, from those at the top to those on the shop floor, she said.
This situation causes obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other problems for today's workers, she said. "For workers, it's no longer a 9-to-5 day. You can begin your work at 6 (a.m.) and go home at 8 at night. It's as much a mental and emotional as a physical strain to the person. It can result in high blood pressure when the person is unable to cope with all of the stresses and anxiety."
At the same time, many jobs today expose the workers doing them to toxic materials, such as solvents and cleaning agents. "A lot of diseases are the result of breathing in the toxic fumes in the work areas where they are," Gulati said.
Payoffs for Employers
Achieving a healthier lifestyle is a choice that starts with medical tests and may lead to taking supplements and nutrients, receiving hormone treatments, and detoxification, she said. For the employers, it is essential to offer a benefits and health insurance program that promotes wellness, she added. The employer should set a budget and commit to spending X dollars per worker annually on wellness promotion, such as an on-site nutritionist or an on-site gym. "Wellness is a big thing because they realize this model, our health insurance system, is not working right," she said.
Workers who participate and benefit from the intervention become passionate about their improved health, and this is highly beneficial for their employers, she said. "Employees see that the company is concerned about staying well, about my well-being. It's not just about my staying here to make the numbers, you know?"
She said the Let's Move campaign launched by First Lade Michelle Obama is a good idea; the campaign promotes healthier eating habits and seeks to prevent childhood obesity through better information for parents and encourages food manufacturers to market healthier foods. Gulati said she believes the health care reform law recently signed by President Obama is not helpful because it does not do enough to promote wellness.
But can the jobs themselves -- sedentary jobs such as truck driving and flying commercial aircraft long distances, and jobs involving chemical exposures -- be changed? Gulati said this is happening now. "A lot of America is turning green, trying to remove the exposures to toxics that are happening to people," Gulati said. "When I go to my gym, guess what? They have Earth-friendly soaps."
Ergonomically appropriate office furniture is part of the solution, she said, and so is ensuring that workers wear appropriate PPE, such as protective respirators for those working in baking operations.
Patients Medical now has nine physicians and approximately 60 employees who believe passionately in its approach. The company was founded in 1974 and is considering expansion plans to other regions of the country, she said.
Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.