American Heart Month at Homeland: Healthy staff, happy residents


When Homeland Employee Wellness Coordinator Roxane E. Hearn, PhD sees Homeland Center staff wearing scrubs that have grown baggy from weight loss, it warms her heart.

“You see them moving faster,” she said. “They say they’re not as tired on their shift or feel they have more energy to spend time with family.”

“Dr. Rox,” as she is affectionately known, is a resource for helping to keep Homeland Center and Homeland at Home staff healthy and on their toes. For American Heart Month this February, she offered fun incentives and challenges to protect the hearts that, in turn, protect Homeland’s residents and patients.

A human heart at peak condition keeps the body energized and alert. When the heart pumps blood properly, a person stays focused and avoids fatigue. Shortness of breath makes it hard to push carts of meals or medical supplies through the halls. The body is strong enough to help a resident move around the room or get out for an activity they enjoy, whether listening to a musician or making a craft.

A healthy heart also shows up outside of work, giving staff the motivation and energy to play with children, exercise, and enjoy a favorite hobby. All are essential to the work-life balance that equips Homeland staff to manage life’s daily stressors.

Put it all together, and Homeland keeps its heart-health initiatives beating. Dr. Rox is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a doctorate in health psychology, a certification in functional nutrition counseling, and has recently begun to place strong emphasis on the use of a functional medicine approach to health and wellness in the Homeland employee population. Functional medicine doesn’t replace traditional medicine. Instead, it takes a holistic view that considers the whole person and seeks to identify and address the root causes of health issues, aiming to understand the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions that contribute to symptoms.

“Hearts don’t always send warning signs when they start becoming unhealthy; even when they do, people often ignore them,” Dr. Rox said. “It is imperative to teach employees to listen to their bodies and get their preventative screenings.”

She provides blood pressure screenings and helps staff see signs of approaching danger in all by understanding the medical terms on their lab tests. From there, she recommends steps for improvement. As she likes to say, family predispositions to heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are no excuse for complacency.

“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle and diet pull the trigger,” she said. “With that in mind, you do have some control. You can change the trajectory.”

For American Heart Month, Homeland staff participated in the Commit to Fit Wellness Challenge, a six-week mobile app-based program that helps employees take proactive steps towards healthy lifestyle goals. Participants receive points for tracking physical activity, taking steps, rating their nutrition, and checking their weight routinely. Cash rewards are given through the challenge to support their efforts.

Additionally, Heart Healthy 7-Day Meal Plans approved by a Registered Dietician with the matching grocery list and step-by-step recipes were emailed and posted on the Homeland Employee Wellness Board. The meal plan focused on key nutritional considerations for a healthy heart and recommended meals that were low in sodium and reduced saturated fats and included healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, and plant sterols that block cholesterol absorption in food.

“We are now starting to teach the employees how to use food as medicine. We are empowering them to take charge of their health by not just telling them what to do but teaching them and giving them the tools to execute,” said Dr. Rox.

The emphasis on heart and overall health doesn’t end after February. Every quarter brings a new wellness challenge. Webinars zero in on specific health topics, such as fighting inflammation or maximizing digestion. One-to-One health coaching by Dr. Rox provides personalized support for employees by helping them set and achieve their health goals. This support includes tailored guidance on nutrition, exercise, disease management, stress reduction strategies, and overall wellness. Through regular meetings both in person and via a telehealth portal, the employees are provided with accountability, motivation, and education, empowering them to make sustainable lifestyle changes and improve their health outcomes. Lifestyle and diet recommendations are a staple in the Homeland Employee Wellness Program, with constant suggestions to eat right, exercise regularly, quit smoking, limit alcohol, get quality sleep, and manage stress.

“We are giving employees the information and support they need so they can take charge of their health,” said Dr. Rox. “Proactiveness is crucial.”

She recalls a Homeland Hospice nurse who cared for multiple family members and patients. About eight years ago, Dr. Rox helped her quit smoking, change poor eating habits ingrained by long days of driving, and learn “box breathing,” a form of deep breathing known to calm frazzled nerves. Gradually, the nurse lost 50 pounds.

“Lifestyle change is something you’re able to maintain and be flexible with, despite life’s twists, turns, and hurdles,” said Dr. Rox. “Habits can change in 21 days, but the more sustainable change takes longer.”

Creating sustainable changes is key to Homeland’s commitment to health and well-being – for staff and residents.

“When staff are healthy, the environment for the residents is safer, and they receive better-quality service,” said Dr. Rox. “Happy, healthy employees make for happier, and healthier residents.”