Employee health is regarded as a strategic advantage with individual, organizational, and societal benefits. This study sought to describe the major health issues, motivations, barriers, and needs related to healthy lifestyles for Cooperative Extension employees. A total of 16 focus groups were conducted throughout Tennessee with 105 participants. Separate focus groups were conducted with seven groups of University of Tennessee Extension employees: administrative assistants, county agents, county directors, program assistants, departmental faculty, administrators, and professional staff. Findings indicate chronic stress as the dominant health issue. Respondents were motivated to stay healthy to be role models for good health, among other reasons. From an organizational standpoint, respondents reported that both an organizational culture that does not prioritize health and their job demands kept them from achieving optimum health. From a personal standpoint, respondents reported that a lack of time for healthy eating and physical activity and their own over-engagement with their work were barriers to health. Employees desired a coordinated, substantial organizational shift toward a culture of wellness that includes an effective employee wellness program. Employees indicated that a culture of wellness would result in employees who represent more balanced lives, thereby setting a better example for those served by Extension.



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