Patricia M. Fuller, PhD is the Director of Wellness Engineering for BKS-Partners, LLC (BKS), a boutique risk management and insurance brokerage firm, in Tampa, FL. Dr. Pat has been with BKS for over six years and has 18 years’ experience in the health promotion field. While BKS is 130 colleagues strong, Dr. Pat's reach extends to their holding company, Baldwin Risk Partners (BRP), one of the fastest- growing enterprises in Florida. She is responsible for designing and delivering customized wellness programs to the BRP portfolio of companies and their clients, touching 1000’s of lives.
Dr. Pat holds a BA, an MBA, and a PhD. She is a CPA, a Master Trainer, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, a Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and a member of the WELCOA Faculty. She earned recognition as a Top 100 Health Promotion Professional in 2014, and since 2011 has led BKS to Healthiest Employer status both locally and nationally. Dr. Pat states that pursuing a career in wellness was more of a calling than a decision. While her CPA designation opens more doors than her other certifications, her Wellcoaches’ training was the most perspective changing.
The two standard metrics in health promotion are the percentage of participation in the wellness program and the percentage of that population at low risk. These are generally measured using health risk assessments supported by biometric screening results. These are important benchmarks. In my experience, companies that introduce these interventions early or without properly communicating their intent, don’t get meaningful participation.
Prior to availing themselves to our wellness consulting services, a client of ours performed biometric screenings annually for five years. This was the extent of their wellness program. With a very conservative corporate culture and a stable employee population, their participation levels hovered in the 20th percentile. The low risk population increased from 59% to 72% over the five year period. This demonstrates that simply knowing your numbers has value, but the low participation did not give the employer a clear picture of the health status of the entire population.
Under the leadership of a new director of HR, this staid corporate culture is making some serious changes. In the last year the client has formed a wellness committee comprised of volunteers representing each location. They have asked me to facilitate their planning meetings and to help generate ideas for increasing interest. We crafted a year-long plan of monthly, quarterly and annual events.
Their first act was to incent the annual screenings with a raffle. This increased participation by 20% immediately. They now have space on their company intranet with wellness features including a section devoted to inspiring colleague stories. They are holding monthly walking contests. They have changed to a medical carrier that incents participation in their online wellness portal. They have made improvements to their break rooms. They are offering time off for those who participate in local charity events and are sponsoring walks and runs. The wellness committee just met their first goal this month. They were awarded their first American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Worksite Designation. I was delighted to take the photo of their beaming faces, but the CPA in me is really looking forward to seeing the participation and the outcomes to this year’s screenings.
Health promotion leadership is practiced not preached. When I began my career, I was so enthused by everything that I was learning, I couldn’t wait to share it – all of it, with everyone –whether they were interested or not. As my career has progressed, I have come to believe that less is more. New health promotion professionals -- we love the energy and please slow down! Sustaining small changes over time leads to bigger results than being “good” on Monday and gradually falling off of the wagon as the week wears on.
In the last year, I participated in a year-long coaching program to increase my physical fitness. I selected this particular program because it was based on that premise-small habits practiced and kept or abandoned as deemed appropriate would lead to life-altering change. I made some tweaks. My eating habits and nutrition are better. I exercise more. I sleep better. But most importantly, I know I am my best self. I am a model for wellbeing. I am practicing what I preach.
Smoking cessation is often one of the first wellness interventions. It is highly visible, incented by Healthcare Reform and one of the hardest lifestyle habits to change. Rather than give smokers a list of resources and hope for the best, I have had good results with exploring the tobacco-user’s perceived benefits. I then match cessation aids appropriate to the user’s unique needs. This small step is the difference between repeated failure and quitting once and for all. By coupling this one-on-one technique with gradually moving the employer to a tobacco-free campus, I have led a dozen companies and tens of individuals to a tobacco-free lifestyle.
“Through breathing exercises, making journal entries, eating healthier and taking things one day at a time I have not had a cigarette in a two month timeframe. Thank you Pat!!!”
In order to sustain engagement with health promotion, the industry will have to espouse a holistic approach-- one that includes all five areas of modifiable wellbeing. Today’s workplaces are multi-generational with disparate needs and interests. Limiting health promotion to physical wellbeing is short-sighted and misses opportunities for engagement with those who are most concerned with their communities, their careers, their relationships or their finances.
Given that adults learn by doing and that behavioral economists have taught us that they are predictably irrational, we have to create work environments where practicing the healthiest behavior is the easiest choice. Healthy behavior can begin in any of the modifiable areas and will result in increases to all of them. It is incumbent on employers to provide education, opportunities for skill building and motivation in all of these areas. Espousing a holistic view of health promotion holds the most promise for attracting and retaining today’s and tomorrow’s engaged workforce.