ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Jana Wolff

Jana Banana, the RD to Be!

My name is Jana Wolff. I am a Clinical Account Manager dedicated to the health and wellness of employees at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. MVP is a nationally-recognized, regional not-for-profit health plan committed to having a positive impact on the health and wellness of everyone we serve. We have 1700 employees in 9 regional locations. I have worked for MVP for 6.5 years in various health and wellness roles. Currently I manage "Journey to Well-Being" MVP's official employee wellness program.

That's me at work!

I received my bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Albany. My love for wellness started in 7th grade when I saw my first dietitian and thought, “that’s exactly what I want to do!” I started working for MVP in 2008, received three promotions, and eventually became a Clinical Account Manager.  Meanwhile, I became a Certified Wellness Coach, a WellCert Certified Wellness Coordinator, and a Certified Zumba Instructor. In 2012, I started classes to become a Registered Dietitian, while working.  My nutrition classes and coaching certification have given me the education to help numerous employees.

After I took the role of Clinical Account Manager in 2013, I was tasked with creating a “new and improved” wellness program for MVP. With the help of employees, we effectively branded “Journey to Well-Being” as MVP’s official well-being program in a matter of months. Before this position, I was a Wellness Coordinator for Price Chopper Supermarkets (through MVP) and managed Wellness Champions in 47 different locations for a well-established program, so this was a very new and exciting challenge for me.

Journey to Well-Being offered three behavior change programs in 2014. MyJourney 2014 was a year-long “engagement challenge” allowing employees to win prizes for participating in at least 5 Well-Being activities. Participating in a major activity (such as engaging with a health coach or finishing a challenge) entered you to win 1 of 3 weekend getaways. So far, 95% of participants agree that this program has helped them with their health. MyJourney 2014 concludes at year’s end, however, we have increased participation in all other activities because of this incentive. MISSION: SLIMPOSSIBLE was a 12 week weight management challenge with a 6 month follow up to ensure weight maintenance.  We offered weigh-ins, promoted resources and educated participants on goal formation. 303 employees participated with a total of ~1,000 lbs lost.  81% of participants completed the program and 77% were satisfied with the program. Lastly, we offered a CORE Financial Wellness pilot where participants learned fundamental lessons focused on changing their behaviors with money to get out of debt; build wealth for retirement; communicate with family; and get free of financial stress. Out of the 100 slots, 400 employees expressed interest. There was an $8,802 financial turnaround in just 90 days, plus 74% of participants reported feeling “secure” after the program.

Journey to Well-Being has reflected the 7 Benchmarks from its inception. In the beginning, we presented our strategic plan to our Senior Operating Committee (SOC), comprised of executives at MVP. We led a stretch break and provided them stability balls to use at their desk. This captured their attention, but I knew we must continuously update them on program successes to secure their support. Every quarter thereafter, we presented program data and goals to the SOC. We also secured 3 Executive Sponsors serving ass “spokespeople” for our program. We created cohesive wellness teams by securing a well-rounded Committee and Steering Committee. We collect data in quarterly and annual reports, craft an operating plan/strategic plan with objectives, specific metrics, as well as strategies with designated leaders and costs. We choose our interventions by combing through biometric data, annual satisfaction surveys, and health risk assessments. All of this would be for naught if we did not create a supportive culture by highlighting successes of our employees and positively encouraging healthy behaviors.


I believe that you must walk the walk to be a leader. On my own time I support farmer’s markets and my husband and I love cooking fresh, plant based meals. I strongly believe in engaging in regular exercise. I completed a half marathon and have run in the Boilermaker 15K for 4 summers straight. I regularly engage in yoga and Zumba and encourage my family and friends to do the same.

My coaching certification has led me to believe that any change is possible. I regularly use this knowledge to help others make long lasting changes such as weight loss or quitting smoking. I would recommend to other practitioners to realize that even one person makes a difference. Not everyone is going to stop smoking or lower their BMI, but those that are ready to change are the ones we should focus on and educating those that need help should be paramount.

Our program focuses on personal successes of employees, incorporates financial benefits into overall programming, takes different approaches to wellness such as financial wellness, and has a strong public presence in our area to show the general public that our company is truly walking the walk.

When employees share their stories through our website or weekly newsletter, others feel inspired to reach their goals. This improves the culture and allows employees to recognize their peers’ achievements. Financial benefits, such as a premium differential for participating in a weight management challenge, increases participation and improve outcomes in decreasing obesity. Thinking outside of the box and offering financial wellness programming allows us to address issues not targeted in traditional wellness plans. Financial stress contributes to overall well-being of an employee and reducing this stress contributes to a happier workforce. A strong public presence holds our company accountable, but it also makes us competitive as a company.

The health promotion industry has many opportunities. Currently, the death rate of preventable diseases is in the millions and more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese. Population health management is a true solution to these issues. Threats to the industry include the capability of showing valid and reliable results of programming through ROI, which is difficult to measure. And the biggest threat is the economy. With companies struggling, it becomes difficult to gain CEO support funding to meet population needs.

Over the next 5 years I will become a Registered Dietitian and recruit other RD’s into the field of worksite wellness. RD’s have a wealth of knowledge and could be a huge asset to the field. I am also pursuing the WellCert Level 2 Certified Wellness Program Manager certification to better equip myself in an ever changing field.

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That's me at work! Cross country skiing, anyone? My husband and I after the half marathon...phew! This is first half marathon! My husband and I snowshoeing in VT At the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA!
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