Employees at UCLA Health who have experienced on-the-job injures are getting the tools they need to improve their overall health and avoid future work-related injuries through WorkStrong, an innovative UC-wide initiative.

“WorkStrong is really a win-win-win,” says Alison Frink, UCLA WorkStrong coordinator. “Employees receive personal attention and expert support to get healthier and stronger. UCLA Health wins with fewer employees getting injured, and departments win with employees returning to work and able to perform at their best.”

Participants, who are referred to the program through their worker’s compensation physicians, are offered a variety of services that are customized to meet their individual needs. Key to WorkStrong’s success is its strong collaboration with UCLA Recreation and the UCLA Staff and Faculty Counseling Center (SFCC), as well as support from supervisors and leadership at UCLA. WorkStrong services can include a six-month UCLA Recreation membership providing access to campus workout facilities and sessions with a personal trainer; guidance from a registered dietitian; and confidential counseling sessions at SFCC. 

Frink is quick to point out that the aim of WorkStrong isn’t just to help employees be healthier for work. “This program really gives people the tools they need to move forward in life,” she says. “We want to help employees strengthen their bodies and get healthier with practical lifestyle tips they can implement outside of work.”

Jose Sanchez, patient specialty services technician at UCLA Health Surgery Center in Century City, represents just one success story from WorkStrong. Sanchez was referred to the program more than two years ago after hurting his shoulder while lifting a patient. Since then, he has made pivotal, lasting health decisions that have benefitted his personal health, his job and his family.

“WorkStrong influenced my life and my family’s life,” Sanchez says. “Suddenly, my boys were seeing me getting healthy, running and lifting weights in our garage. Now, my whole family is making healthier choices.”

Personal trainer Trudy Neiss puts Jesse Olguin and Catherine Baker through their WorkStrong paces.

Catherine Baker, a nurse at Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, is another employee who has experienced firsthand the advantages of the WorkStrong program. Though initially reluctant to join, she has become a big fan.

“WorkStrong didn’t appeal to me at first because I don’t like gyms and wasn’t interested in driving to work on an off-day,” Baker says. “But now that I’ve started, I absolutely love it and am so glad I signed up. I always walk out of the gym feeling so much better than when I went in.”

Baker meets with UCLA Recreation personal trainer Trudy Niess, who in addition to guiding her in gym workouts has also suggested exercises Baker can do at home to target and strengthen her muscles.

“Changing a lifestyle is hard,” says Frink. “The one-on-one support employees get through the program is the key to WorkStrong’s success in helping employees get healthier and fitter and stay injury-free.”

This story was originally published in UCLA Health Employee News. Learn more about WorkStrong in this previous UCLA Newsroom story about employees in UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services.