A Holistic Approach to Wellness

As a Health and Wellness Coordinator at The Health Federation of Philadelphia’s Early Head Start program, my responsibilities center around the well-being and overall wellness of our staff and the families we serve. Early Head Start provides at-home-services, such as early childhood education intervention. These services are primarily used for Head Start, which provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Our social workers and Child Family Advocates work tirelessly to empower families and parents in our program. Through our Parent Empowerment Workshops, we offer classes such as Brain Development and Nurturing, Positive Discipline, Stress and Anger Management, and Financial Literacy. The classes are designed to provide a holistic approach to health and wellness. At Early Head Start, it is understood that wellness is multifaceted; we cannot simply address educational practices while ignoring the health disparities that exist among our families.

While we strive daily to find new ways to serve our families, there is also a strong focus on staff wellness. In America, staff wellness often takes a backseat to the constant hustle and bustle of modern workplace culture. I know in my past at different jobs I never felt as though my own wellness was a priority. I was there to do a job and do it well, and only after I clocked out could my needs become my own again. Everyone has heard the instruction while on an airplane: “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” This is a very telling instruction that should be applied metaphorically to our everyday lives. You cannot take care of anyone else if you do not make your own well-being a priority in your life. At Early Head Start, our program director has taken that sentiment to heart, which is how my position -- as well as our Wellness Center -- was created.
The Wellness Center at Early Head Start serves as a resource for health education, stress management, and a place to go during the workday to unwind and reset. There are books on health and wellness, yoga mats and exercise equipment, an aromatherapy zone, art supplies, and many places to sit and relax. At this center we offer monthly classes and workshops for families and staff, including fitness classes, nutrition, mindfulness and meditation, stress reduction, aromatherapy, HIV/AIDS education, and reproductive health education. These workshops are scheduled according to staff and families’ interests and needs. Education and opportunity are continuously available through our Wellness Center.

This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Casey Schattler.
Casey serves as a Health & Wellness Coordinator at the Health Federation of Philadelphia - Early Head Start Program.