The Gold Standard: PSU’s Culture of Health

Woman stands holding an award.

Enveloped by majestic mountains, shimmering lakes and rivers, and townscapes that inspire visitors from around the world, Plymouth State University is a pretty special place. Add these assets to a campus culture that prides itself on health and fitness and you’ve got an award-winning workplace environment.

Plymouth State has earned top honors from the American Heart Association for taking significant steps to build a culture of health in the workplace. PSU’s Gold Level recognition in the 2019 Workplace Health Achievement Index indicates that the University has taken a holistic approach to assessing and mitigating health risks in its workforce and students, according to Mike Benton, president/CEO of GENAVIX HealthyCare Network and a regional board member of the American Heart Association. 

“Developing a culture of health and well-being is important for many reasons,” says Benton. “Plymouth State demonstrates this through its high-quality programs and collaborative community partnerships that it engages in both on and off campus.”

Plymouth State is one of only six organizations in New Hampshire recognized by the American Heart Association’s Workplace Health Achievement Index for investing in the health of their workforce and workplace. PSU is commended for its commitment to creating a workplace environment built on healthy core values.

The American Heart Association has defined best practices for employers to use to build a culture of health for their employees in the workplace, and the Workplace Health Achievement Index measures the extent to which companies implement them. The index considers health content, personal health data, and consumer engagement opportunities to evaluate the overall quality and comprehensiveness of workplace health programs. Life’s Simple 7®, the American Heart Association’s definition of ideal cardiovascular health based on seven risk factors (smoking status, physical activity, weight, diet, blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure), is also taken into the scoring process.

A unique feature of the index is that it calculates an average heart health score for employees of participating companies that securely submit aggregate health data. Companies receive benchmarking reports, which allow them to identify potential areas of improvement so that they can advance their annual performance and recognition.

“We’re thrilled to be recognized by the American Heart Association for the highest achievement in the Workplace Health Achievement Index,” says Denise Normandin, director of Healthy PSU. “At Plymouth State University, we make it a priority to provide an evidence-based, comprehensive organizational health and wellness program that looks beyond the physical aspects of well-being.”

The Healthy PSU program has won multiple awards for supporting a culture of health by providing collaborative leadership, education, planning, and evaluation for the health and well-being of the campus and community it serves. It’s a significant component of the University’s health-conscious environment, which features top-notch athletic facilities that welcome competitors and casual users alike, and annual events such as Summit Day and Ski Day that celebrate the University’s fitness orientation.

“The university system has provided us with the resources so that we can support our faculty, staff, and students with a holistic approach to well-being,” adds Normandin. “Our program is unique in that it is voluntary in nature so individuals can choose to engage or not, and they work on aspects of well-being that are meaningful to them. Each person is unique and so is their journey toward well-being. We have created a culture of wellness and an environment that supports people to make healthier choices.”

“It is imperative to reach individuals of all ages and educate them on how and why embracing a healthy lifestyle now is critical to their lifelong health outcomes,” says Benton. “Good nutrition, daily physical activity, and managing stress can all go a long way to controlling the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for both women and men.”

The importance of heart health will be highlighted during American Heart Month in February. Associated programs include the American Heart Association’s “National Wear Red Day” event on Friday, February 7, and the “Go Red for Women” movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.