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Wellness program delivers real life-saving benefits

"Does anybody know CPR? Someone passed out on the fourth floor!"

With that anxious cry by a frantic Toronto District School Board (TDSB) employee, Centennial College student Peter Heroux sprinted upstairs to see how he could help. Heroux found the victim lying on her stomach on the office floor.
Delivered CPR

Recalling his CPR training, Heroux turned the unconscious woman over and checked her breathing. There was none. He quickly began CPR, performing chest thrusts and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After three minutes, the 30-something-year-old woman started breathing on her own and gained consciousness. Paramedics arrived soon afterward.

It was a dramatic demonstration of the benefit of having a workplace wellness specialist on staff. Heroux was in the middle of a three-month work placement at the TDSB head office in North York last March when he got the plea for help. He had learned CPR as part of his program curriculum at Centennial College.

Personal experience

"I'm delighted I had an opportunity to pay back, by God's grace, a life-saving intervention," says 45-year-old Heroux, recounting how he himself had been rescued 20 years ago after a boating accident in the Northwest Territories.

Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion is a unique post-diploma program that focuses on the total well being of individuals and groups within a corporate or community context.

Centennial's eight-month program provides students with an understanding of nutrition, physical wellness, stress management and wellness coaching, among other topics.

Heroux had already made his mark at the TDSB office even before his heroic deed last spring. He had been observing people's work and dietary habits and proposed a simple exercise program for TDSB employees.

"I started a lunchtime walking program and more than 40 people joined it within a week," Heroux says proudly. "Employees are tired and stressed. I see a lot of overweight people, hypertension. We need to get people moving again."

Return on investment
  • Established in 1987 at Centennial College, the program is Canada's first post-graduate wellness program.
  • The one-year program includes 15 weeks of experience in a workplace setting.
  • Wellness grads have been hired by Telus
    Mobility, Pepsi, Bank of Montreal and the University of Waterloo, among many other organizations.
  • Graduate starting salaries range from $40,000 to $44,000.
  • For more information, visit

  • In his Centennial program, Heroux learned that workplace wellness provides a return on investment of $3 for every $1 spent on programming. Employers reap the benefits in the form of higher productivity, lower employee absenteeism and lower drug plan costs, among other advantages.

    Centennial graduates acquire the programming, management and communication skills needed to become effective managers of workplace wellness programs. Thanks to a strong marketing component in the program, many graduates become self-employed entrepreneurs, contracting their wellness expertise with corporate clients.

    At the end of his field placement, Heroux was invited to draft a workplace wellness plan for the TDSB and it was enthusiastically received. He was hired even before he graduated in June. Heroux has spent the summer working at the board as a wellness consultant.

    "The employees are so appreciative of the wellness workshops. I couldn't ask for more positive feedback," Heroux says. "They've gained a real understanding of the benefits of living healthy."

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