Building on its renowned commitment to support the public health community around the world, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced today the launch of The Health and Wellness For All Program in collaboration with Thrive Global, the behavior change technology company founded by Arianna Huffington to help people adopt healthier habits to reduce stress and improve health and performance. To meet the specific and emergent needs of health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic--workers who are addressing a public health crisis of historic proportion--the Harvard Chan School, with a distinguished century-old history of developing and communicating evidence-based environmental, occupational, and behavioral health information including findings around the science of diet, nutrition, and sleep, will provide protocols tailored for the workforce.
The following organizations will pilot the program with a select group of frontline health professionals and caregivers: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, Elara Caring, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Health Law Advocates, Massachusetts AFL-CIO: (SEIU Local 509), Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Massachusetts Health Council, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Senior Care Association, MGH Institute for Health Professions, National Association of Social Workers-MA, Partners In Health, and The Schwartz Center. The pilot will then extend to students, faculty, staff, fellows, and alumni of collaborating academic institutions, all of whom are working on behalf of public health around the world. After testing, refining, and iterating, the program will be introduced to the global public health workforce.
The evidence-based digital behavior change program will include online workshops, coaching, content--articles, emails, video, and podcasts--and Microsteps for small incremental changes that acknowledge the challenging realities in which public health workers are operating but help them navigate them with less stress and more resilience. They will be delivered through virtual trainings as well as Thrive Global's behavior change platform targeted at supporting the well-being of health workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. The programs will focus on ways to build a stronger immune system through Microsteps that can improve the mental and physical well-being of health workers, including a focus on sleep, naps, movement, nutrition, stress management, and relationships with colleagues within the constraints, of course, of the current realities.
The well-being of physicians, nurses, community health workers, social workers, caregivers, and our frontline public health workforce is a critical starting point for population health around the world. That reality has come into stark relief in recent days, as the world mobilizes in response to COVID-19. We believe it is the responsibility of the public health community to reduce the physical and emotional strain--and ensure the overall wellness of those working in the field, in clinics, and in international relief settings. As leaders in public health, it is our responsibility to find the solution for how we can better care for our caregivers."
Michelle Williams, Dean of the Faculty of Harvard Chan School
Today, frontline health workers worldwide face vast challenges when it comes to prioritizing their own health. That strain is compounded amid a public health crisis. Already, in response to COVID-19, thousands of health care workers are falling ill--and some have even died, not just from the virus itself, but from cardiac arrest and other conditions caused by overwork and exhaustion. The burdens--both acute and chronic--that healthcare workers face today are leading to a dangerous burnout epidemic, which will have devastating consequences for both providers and patients.
A recent Mayo Clinic study sought to quantify the impact of burnout on attrition by asking doctors to report their level of burnout on a 7-point scale over time. For every 1-point increase in reported burnout, physicians were 30-40% more likely to reduce their work hours within two years. Taken together, that reduction is the equivalent of losing the graduates of seven medical schools every year.
"There's a reason why on airplanes we are asked to put our own oxygen masks on first before helping others. We won't be our most effective in a crisis if our own health is compromised," said Arianna Huffington, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global. "Our global response to this pandemic is dependent on safeguarding the health of those on the front lines of the crisis. The rest of us can isolate ourselves--our public health workers can't. The best way to honor their dedication and sacrifice is to give them all the tools we can to maintain their health and safety."