For several years Union Learning Reps (ULRs) at Tyne & Wear Clerical branch of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have been delivering informal learning sessions in the workplace on various health topics.
Raising awareness about the importance of good hydration, hand hygiene, mental health and discussing issues such as hidden sugar in foods and drinks, men’s health, cancer, alcohol, stop smoking, shisha pipe use, risk of stroke etc. has proven popular with members across the BT sites in the branch.
Christine Carruthers, lead ULR at the branch, said:
The workplace is considered to be one of the most effective methods of engaging colleagues in learning about health issues.”
It is hoped that information gained is shared with family members and within social networks to enhance the impact on the wider community health and wellbeing.”
As a result the branch is aware of at least two cases where information gained at these events has resulted in members seeking professional health advice to be informed that their early intervention was critical in ensuring that their diagnosis was treatable.
The NHS prosthetic models of breast and testicles were instrumental in both these cases to help members realise that their symptoms were a cause for concern and prompted them to seek immediate medical help
Both cases have been successfully managed with members grateful for the information gained in the workplace as their outcome could have, in time, been completely different. Similarly, information given about the use of Shisha pipes was received by colleagues astonished at the potential health risks they were exposing themselves to.
Many admitted that they found the pipes to be socially acceptable but were unaware of the dangers associated with them and as a result of the workplace session intended to change their lifestyle. Many NHS trusts have libraries that will loan health models to health advocates and ULRs to help reinforce the message being delivered.
Whether it’s a jar of tar, blocked artery, beer goggles, displays about diabetes or lung cancer etc, these interactive aids are visual prompts to engage colleagues into conversation about the subject. Food can also be used as visual prompts.
Cherry tomatoes, cherries and Maltesers were used to engage colleagues with the men’s health info, sugar lumps were used to highlight the hidden sugars in food and drinks, Lion Bars, Maltesers and chocolate lumps were used to highlight the hidden sugars in food and drinks, Lion Bars, Maltesers and chocolate raisins have been used to stimulate conversation about bowel cancer.
Feedback from members and managers confirms the positive effect that learning about health has had throughout the workplace regarding attendance, morale and perceptions about unions.”
ULRs aren’t expected to give health advice just offer information to help members decide how to improve their health and wellbeing.”
However this information is proving very helpful in helping members start exploring a healthy lifestyle.