Tuesday, 21 March 2017

World Salt Awareness Week : “The Forgotten Killer”

With the consumption of processed foods at an all time high,  most of us surpass the RDA of salt before even adding it to our food.

The theme for this year’s awareness week which is running from March 20th to 26th is “Salt: The Forgotten Killer”, which is a striking but appropriate title. WASH (World Action on Salt and Health) runs World Salt Awareness Week every year, and receives widespread support from countries all around the world. This important week serves to highlight the importance of reducing salt intake in all populations throughout the world, and all countries are invited to participate; be it holding an event, creating media interest or generating awareness within local communities.

The most severe consequence of consuming too much salt is high blood pressure as this can eventually lead to strokes,  heart attacks and heart failures. Considering that these are some of the leading causes of death globally and how our eating habits have developed, salt does not appear to be weighted an appropriate amount of caution. Food manufacturers do not add salt sparingly, and we all know at least one person who adds salt to their food before they even taste it.

Our tastebuds have grown so accustomed to the taste of salt, that we often don’t realise how high the salt content of our food is. Just yesterday, I was drinking a bottle of soda water and just happened to look at the nutritional information. I  had added some lemon and lime wedges to the one litre bottle, and was feeling very smug about my healthy tasty alternative to plain water. The 1 litre bottle in fact contained 8% of my recommended daily allowance of salt. The total RDA for salt is a mere teaspoon at 6g, however most people assume it is much more.

3 simple ways to reduce salt in your diet:
  1. Check all food labels: Salt can hide in the most inconspicuous of places, such as bread, breakfast cereals and sweet treats.
  2. Don’t add salt to your food: Obvious, however as many are oblivious to the amount of salt their food already contains, they don’t think twice about topping up with a sprinkle of salt.
  3. Find other ways to flavour food: Herbs, spices, black pepper and chilli to name a few. Life without salt does not have to be bland!

Checking labels is probably one of the most effective yet underused methods of disease prevention and adapting to a healthy lifestyle. The information is all there, however non communicable diseases which can be heavily influenced by diet are still rampant.

There is no quicker way of determining a food’s nutritional value than reading a label. Should the packaging not display this information,  search engines on the internet are quick to answer any food related questions we may ask. With healthy eating becoming such a hot topic, there is no end to the information available to us. Therefore, there are no excuses.

Also, although it requires more work, it is advisable to read EVERY label.  How many articles have you see on Hidden Salt, Hidden Fats, Hidden Calories or Hidden Sugars? These are not hidden, they are ignored.  Everything you put into your shopping basket you are putting into your body. You deserve better than to be secretly destroying your health! Next time you go shopping,  take the time to read every label. You will be surprised at what you find!

We want to keep your employees healthy, no matter what challenges they may face. 

Click here to access our website and see what we can do for you.

Otherwise, send us an email on info@fullhealthmedical.com or call us on +353 (01) 5549795 to speak to one of our team.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

12 Ways to stay Healthy in Hotels

Being away from home is not easy. Trying to stay healthy is a huge challenge, among others, when you are not in the comfort of your own home. For many, living out of hotels and constant travel are essential components of their job. A weekend away is an opportunity to splurge a little, however it’s not really a treat if it’s going on for a whole week! Here are some tips to help you stay healthy during long term stays and business trips :

  1. Plan ahead before you leave. Including snacks and all meals! Be specific about your nutritional needs for the week. Gauge your surroundings, look into any restaurants or shops which carry healthy options that you can incorporate into your week. Investigate the leisure facilities, and any opportunities for exercise in the area. If in doubt, short runs or long walks are better than sitting in your hotel room for the evening. The activity will also be good for reducing stress and improving your mood.

  1. Bring some healthy, non perishable snacks. Nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, seeds, health bars (Be careful with these! Some are packed with sugar) or even try and make your own at the weekend.
  2. Ask for a fridge and / or microwave. You would be surprised at what can do! It may not sound ideal to prepare a meal in your hotel room, however you will have a lot more control over your nutritional intake. You don’t have to do this every day, but if done occasionally this could make a significant impact on your health, particularly if you are struggling to find convenient healthy options where you are staying.
  3. Pick 1-2 meals you can make in your hotel room using only fridge, microwave, portable blender, small knife and chopping board. There are many documented successes of cooking with a rice cooker in your room, as people have tested cooking a variety of meals. (Obviously these are dependent on whether or not you have checked in luggage, if you are travelling on a plane)

  1. Bring plastic containers with prepared food. If you are staying in a hotel which doesn’t require flying to, you can make some meals or snacks to last a few days. Leftovers from the weekend’s cooking, homemade snacks, overnight oats are only a few ideas.

  1. Negotiate a healthy dinner with the hotel. Be specific with your orders, and make healthy swaps. Ask and you shall receive!
  2. If necessary, go to the shop on the day you arrive. If you are very busy and arriving back to the hotel late, you may have very few options for food. 
  3. Take advantage of the breakfast buffet. Not everything in the breakfast buffet is healthy, but there's almost always some good options (eggs, meat, veggies, fruit, smoked salmon, etc). Take the opportunity to eat a guaranteed healthy meal so that no matter what happened the rest of the day, you have a head start.
  4. Eat before the airport. Don’t depend on airport food when you are trying to be healthy. Temptation is everywhere! If you are regularly in an airport which has genuinely healthy options, life can be made a little easier.
  5. Investigate your healthy options in the hotel and surrounding areas. A lot of towns and cities have followed the healthy movement and developed healthier menus, some with calorie content displayed.
  6. Keep Moving! Leisure centres, walking or cycling trails, hotel room workouts. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Walk instead of getting a taxi. The list is endless. Pick some activities which you will enjoy, and you will be more likely to keep doing them. There are lots of Youtube videos, books and apps containing as short as 20 minute workouts, where all that you need is suitable clothing, some water and maybe a chair.  There are literally no excuses! Plan activity at the beginning of your week to keep you motivated.

  1. Be okay with having a more basic meal plan that might get a bit repetitive. You’re traveling so it’s not as easy as when you’re home, obviously. Be okay with that. When you are at home, you can fit in more variety.

*Food you can prepare in your hotel room

v Salads – You can often buy bagged lettuce that is fully prepared. Cherry tomatoes, sprouts, pickled vegetables, baby cucumber, avocado
v Fruit – Fresh and tinned (if tinned, avoid anything in syrup)
v Tinned Fish
v In a microwave – Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Broccoli, Microwavable rice, Soup
v Cooked meats – Chicken or beef (pre-packed or from a deli), Smoked Salmon
v Overnight Oats
v Scrambled eggs (microwaved)
v Rice Cooker Meals
v Spices and flavourings

     We want to keep your employees healthy, no matter what challenges they may face. 

Click here to access our website and see what we can do for you.

Otherwise, send us an email on info@fullhealthmedical.com or call us on +353 (01) 5549795 to speak to one of our team.

Monday, 13 March 2017

11 Things we learned about Staff Engagement at the 2017 Health at Work Conference - NEC Birmingham, March 7th & 8th 2017

I was lucky enough to be available to attend the second day of the prestigious conference in the NEC in Birmingham this year. Travelling from Ireland meant a lot of time on the road, but once we touched down in England we could access the NEC with only a quick shuttle and a short walk. The venue is extremely accessible, and although it is quite large the exhibition and talks were all kept in a relatively concise area, with plenty of food and beverage options closeby. But enough about the amazing venue. The event was very well organised, buzzing with professionals and expertise. Every stand you approached and every table you sat at to rest your feet and enjoy a coffee, there was an intellectual or business opportunity.

My main focus was on the Employee Engagement and Performance programme. I also spent a lot of time strolling through the exhibition, having conversations with like-minded individuals and being awed at the diversity of organisations and their methods. I have arrived back in Ireland with two branded cloth bags of brochures, leaflets, booklets and novelty freebies which I can’t wait to sift through. The whole event was an information goldmine if you were strategic enough about your intentions.

The talks which I attended were given by experts in the area, and were diverse in their delivery and content. These are the main points they made, which any employer should take note of if they are trying to engage their workforce.

  1. There is a global rise in Reward and Recognition

Francis Goss from Engage for Success started off the sessions with plenty of energy and spoke about the global rise in organisations using incentives and reward systems to acknowledge their productive staff. Positive engagement with your people can result in a great customer service. He was passionate about listening to the employee voice, and incorporating a strategic narrative when planning to heighten staff engagement. Engaged employees are healthier, and healthier employees are engaged.

  1. Benefits tap into human emotion

For a benefit to be truly meaningful, it has to mean something to the person. What matters to most people is their health, family and finances. By providing a relevant benefit, you develop a psychological contract with your employees and show that you care.
Make an emotional connection to have the most positive impact on your staff.


  1. Rewards meet a fundamental human need

Appreciation is a major motivator, in any area of life. Without being told that your actions are worthwhile, why bother pushing yourself to do your best when you feel no one notices? And if they do notice, and aren’t even acknowledging it, that is nearly worse. A simple “well done” can boost morale with immediate effect, however making active staff appreciation a long-term plan paints the picture of a company who is willing to put time and effort into making their staff feel positive about their employment experience.

  1. Employee Voice

So you have an enthusiastic group of managers and HR team, and they are passionate about making your workplace a happy one. Their attitude is great, and their enthusiasm is high. They take time to brainstorm ideas, work together to come up with the best ideas and events, and no one shows up. Now they are deflated and unmotivated. They think the staff aren’t interested. Well, they probably aren’t.

The reason your team have failed is because they didn’t take into account what the employees feel they need. Sure the cycling group was a great idea, but did anyone ask staff if they even own a bike? The only way to begin any staff engagement programme is to do a needs assessment. This can be done through a focus group, a meeting, a survey, or even reviewing some previous requests by staff. It doesn’t have to be difficult or technical, however it does need as much active input as possible. One size does not fill all organisations. You need to remember to treat your people with the uniqueness they deserve.

In the same thread, it is best to pilot any programme based on data previously gathered. Your employees may have different interests than other groups, but there are many blueprints which are relatively universal, give or take a few tweaks to fit it into your organisational needs. Don’t dismiss the experts. You can find some interesting papers and data on www.engageforsuccess.org.

As well as communicating with staff prior to the initiation of a programme, continuous evaluation is important. It is worth getting some feedback during a set of activities and following their completion. This will help to address needs, expectations and planning. It is vital to ensure that programmes are as tailored to employees’ needs as possible.

  1. Non monetary rewards

Financial benefits are of course appreciated, however employers don’t need to spend the big bucks to show employee that they care. Making money is not the sole reason for people to go to work. Some have personal goals, or just want to love what they do. It gives individuals a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment at the end of their day (ideally). Many want to earn recognition and respect as well as financial gains. Non cash incentives can be just as meaningful if not more so than a monetary reward.

  1. Make it interesting

moveOne of my favourite presentations of the day was from Active Working CIC. Unfortunately the presenter’s name was not on the programme, but I really loved their upbeat approach. In a short 5 minutes, they got us all up and about and moving, and quickly explained the benefit of mild activity throughout the workday. It was interactive, and the proof was in the pudding. We all felt the atmosphere lighten slightly after standing up and giving our shoulders a wiggle. It’s not just about the information you provide, delivery is key for engagement.
Make sure that not only the content is interesting, but also the interaction with staff. This will focus attention and create a more positive uptake.

  1. Stress has many sources

Staff can feel stress from a number of different sources. In a large organisation, or in a position where someone is in contact with a vast amount of people, it can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause of stress. It can come from executives, line managers, the individual themselves or outside of the workplace. Identify sources with staff. Self pressure could be alleviated with a bit of meditation or a personal development workshop, or pressure caused by another person can be dealt with in an appropriate way if necessary. Stress felt due to sources external to the workplace can also be addressed or helped once it has been identified. Psychological stress, no matter what the source, can have detrimental effects on the physical health of an individual and impact their quality of life and work. Engage with staff to discover the reason for their stress.

  1. Yes we have lots of programmes, but no one in involved

Many organisations have a selection of programmes and activities which they have available to their staff, yet uptake is poor. The staff showed interest in these specific types of interaction, however once they have been made a realisation there is suddenly no interest. Why is this?

Advertising! The best deal in the supermarket is not much good to the consumer if it is hidden away at the back of the store next to the expensive specialty artisan foods. But put it beside the milk or bread, and now you’re talking. Same applies to promoting any workplace initiatives. Hang a poster in the staff canteen, in the break room, in the bathrooms. Spread by word of mouth, email, set up a facebook page. It takes little energy to get the word out, and maybe this is why the process is underlooked and undervalued.

Ensure that your scheduling, accessibility and facilities also match demand. Make adjustments to the original plan if necessary. Some communication with staff prior to finalising details will definitely aid the success of any programmes you plan to run.

  1. Health and wellness should be a core structure, not an add on

At an event such as this, it is clear that the majority if not all attendees are in agreement with the above statement. Health and wellness should be part of the core business plan in an organisation. Absenteeism and presenteeism cost the economy billions worldwide each year. By improving the health of your workforce, you can reduce incidences of each of these and create a stronger, more resilient workforce. Health and wellbeing of staff is not only a “feel good” extra, it’s a business strategy.

A survey of almost 1000 employees done by Ibec reported that seven in ten (69%) employees are more likely to stay longer with employers who show an interest in their health and wellbeing while half would consider leaving employers who don’t. Over 4 million days are lost in Ireland due to absenteeism by small businesses alone. By integrating health and wellness into organisational ethos, these numbers can all be reduced.

  1. Trendy 2 B negative

Chief Superintendent Glenn Tunstall from the Kingston Metropolitan Police illustrated well the culture in which we work, and how sometimes it appears to be fashionable to continuously criticize those of higher status and their actions. Getting staff onside can at times be difficult, and it is up to you to demonstrate your loyalty to them to get them invested in becoming interactive with you. An approach used in this scenario was working with the lower ranking staff in a bottom-up method. The “You said it, we did it” board which they display is a reinforcer of how the PCs’ requests were not only listened to, but also acted upon. Their rise in positive engagement with the force has made the Kingston borough not only a more positive workplace, but a stronger public resource.

Furthermore, their positive engagement with civilians through the use of social media has created a more positive view of the police force locally. Humourous uploads and communications associate the force with being a more down to earth and approachable group, rather than simply an untrustworthy group of law enforcers. Similarly, as it is “trendy to be negative” within the police force, it is also fashionable to criticise them. The image below is the “dancing policeman”, which was a viral hit on Youtube. You can watch them in action here and bring a smile to your face! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaZtUn4oPsQ

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.35.09.pngT2BN

  1. Online Platforms for staff engagement

Darryn Allcorn form the NHS spoke about the pros of using an online platform for staff engagement, and the challenges he faced and overcame in order to make it a success.
Online platforms can eventually be very engaging, but can be slow to start and requires some pro-activity from team running the platform. They found that the initial period was very quiet, with few interactions or postings from staff. Once a few respected staff members were nudged to begin a conversation or comment on a topic, others followed suit. It was a display of typical playground etiquette, with no one wanting to sound too eager to get going. Eventually however, with some strategy, it has proven to be very successful.

An active online platform would be ideal for advertising wellbeing programmes, gauging interest, and activating a group mentality whereby people see others joining up and subsequently take an interest. Photos of co-workers getting involved may help to make initiatives appear more approachable.

We want to keep your employees healthy.

Click here to access our website and see what we can do for you.

Otherwise, send us an email on info@fullhealthmedical.com or call us on +353 (01) 5549795 to speak to one of our team.