The MUSC StairWELL Project: Employees Climbing to Higher Health Habits
“Where are the stairs?” “Take the stairs? I’m too tired.” “I can’t exercise at work… I don’t belong to a gym.” “I don’t have time to exercise.” These are all common comments made by many of the 11,000 diverse, busy employees at the Medical University of SC (MUSC) in Charleston, S.C.
An MUSC Employee Health Survey revealed that:
- 55% of employees were overweight or obese (based on height and weight)
- Almost 60% reported exercising only sometimes or not at all
- 50% of the employees who were told to lose weight described themselves as couch potatoes
In addition, those who were overweight were:
- Over 6 times more likely to have diabetes
- 4.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure
- Almost 3 times more likely to have high cholesterol
- 5.6 times more likely to have fair to poor general health
Health 1st, MUSC’s Employee Wellness Program, is tasked with helping MUSC employees become more active at home and at work. Using a model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the StairWELL Project was conceived to encourage employees to develop the habit of using stairs instead of elevators. Local artists were commissioned to paint colorful murals in a formerly drab and dingy parking garage stairwell. The murals not only brightened and beautified the stairwell, they portrayed examples of individuals enjoying exercise and incorporated healthy slogans such as “Do some reps, take the steps.”
The project included the following major actions:
- The Art Department at the neighboring College of Charleston identified potential artists. Eight candidates were interviewed and two finalists were chosen to create the artwork.
- A people-counter was installed to determine how many employees used the stairs before and after the murals were painted on the stairwell walls.
- Murals and motivational phrases were painted on walls at each landing of the stairwell.
- The project was publicized through a cover picture in the Catalyst, MUSC’s weekly newspaper, and brochures about the project are being printed to further publicize the project. Plaques about the project are being strategically placed next to the elevators to lead employees to the stairs.
Health 1st received a flux of calls, comments, and emails from employees enthusiastically sending their thanks for spurring them on to become more active at work.
The people-counter showed a 390% increase in stair use from the week before the artists began until the completion of the artwork.
Health 1st is hoping this is the beginning of changing the physical environment at MUSC to make it easier for employees to exercise harder while at work!
Contact: Annie Lovering Steele, RN, Manager
Health 1st, MUSC, 45 Courtenay St, MSC 376, Charleston, SC 29425
A few emails received from employees about the project:
“I have to write about the wonderful murals painted in the stairwells of the President Street parking garage. I enjoy them everyday, twice each (and sometimes more)! I hope they inspire others to enjoy a bit of exercise each day. Certainly makes climbing the steps much more interesting!”
“Love the health/exercise inspiration art in the President St. Garage. Colorful, and a great reminder to get out there and do something! AND as easy as walking that stairwell……..my favorite is the gal emerging from a good swim.”
“Love the paintings in the garage – will there be more?”
“I just wanted to comment on the pictures in the parking garage. I think they are great and even though I always park on the second floor ( I get here very early in the mornings) I always take the steps . I will have to check out the other pics on the other floors – great job !!”
“Please say thank you to the artist who is painting in the President street garage. This will help me get motivated to walk the stairs just to see them.”
“I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that I really appreciate the paintings in the garage. I have always taken the stairs, but switched to the south stairs last year. Now, in addition to a fresh air walk, you have provided some artwork to admire along the way.”