What do you get when you mix Star Wars, Pokémon, Superheroes and Wellness? Success and a whole lot of fun. Michelle Welch, RD, LMNT, is the District Wellness Facilitator for Lincoln Public Schools managing wellness efforts for over 8,000 staff and 40,000+ students throughout the 58 school system in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wellness has been the passionate focus of this dietitian’s practice since early on, growing from within her dietetics practice over 25 years as a corporate wellness developer as well as inpatient, outpatient, rehabilitation and community health dietitian prior to taking on the challenge of improving the health of the Lincoln community through schools. Programming dollars 100% donations/grants.
Michelle Welch, RD, LMNT, LPS District Wellness
1. Professional Development
a. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BS Nutrition and Dietetics, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis Medical Center, Dietetic Internship.
b. WELCOA Faculty Member. Certificates: WELCOA’s Seven Benchmarks, Well Workplace University: Managing Workplace Initiatives and Empowering Employees, Eat Right for Life, Walking 4 Wellness.
Commission Dietetic Registration: Three Certificates in Weight Management for Adults, Adolescents and Children (Highest levels offered achieved).
c. Department of Education National Green Ribbon District 2014-15, WELCOA Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals 2014, Outstanding Dietitian of 2014 Lincoln District, Jeanne Vierk Yeuter Award, Rotary Fellow.
d. My passion is positively impacting people’s health.
e. My dietetics degree is my foundation.
2. Demonstrated Success
a. Successful Program/Intervention
Prior to Lincoln Public Schools (LPS), my most successful program was the Lifestyle Challenge, an annual healthy weight and physical activity initiative with longitudinal tracking of participant success.
The focus of LPS is to build a culture of wellness through interactive initiatives, policy and environmental change addressing the six dimensions of wellness. Success is measured through changes in student obesity and fitness levels, quarterly LPS Wellness Challenge engagement, personal health assessment engagement, and annual district wellness investigations measuring social and environmental change.
b. What worked best?
The Lifestyle Challenge is an excellent model for addressing obesity/healthy weight and physical activity. The success of the program has been replicated in four other communities throughout the Midwest and focuses on long-term health progress.
Integrated approaches apply six dimensions of health for students and staff have been bolstered through the success of the LPS Wellness Challenges provided quarterly. Challenges are the energy builder for meaningful cultural change for LPS and the Lincoln community.
Students in Lincoln have significantly decreased obesity levels over each of the past five years, reaching the Healthy People 2020 goal six years ahead of schedule. Obesity rates improved from 17.2% in 2010 to 15.4% in 2014-15 data. 2015-2016 Obesity rates dropped to 15.2%, though state guidelines shifted data collected.
Fitness: Children passing the aerobic fitness test in Lincoln Public Schools has increased from 68.4% in 2010-2011 to 77.4% in 2015-2016.
Data has shown significant correlation between student fitness and academic success and was published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2013. Cultural change has been impacted by this data.
In 2015-16 25,800+ challenges were returned by students and staff. Over 64% of eligible staff completed the personal health assessment in 2016 without a high financial incentive. Engagement has increased significantly from 40% in 2010, reflecting cultural and behavioral change. Weekly wellness communications are exchanged with staff and through social media.
c. LPS Quarterly Challenges and the Lifestyle Challenge reflect WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks.
1. Administrators participate and promote programs. Example: Superintendent presented out of state with wellness facilitator.
2. Wellness champions represent school wellness teams and meet monthly to share best practices. Teams have been part of challenges, group successes celebrated.
3. Programs each involve data collection to measure progress, evaluation incorporates Prochaska’s Stages of Change model. Measurement of goal accomplishment and evaluation.
4. Plans are carefully built to meet needs and well communicated.
5. Interventions are appropriate to critical health needs of each population addressing the six dimensions of wellness.
6. Wellness champion involvement is critical to relationships. Weekly messages, wellness website and social media support cultural changes.
7. Integrated evaluation has continued to shape changes in challenge approaches. Examination of outcomes helps reflect individual and cultural change. Annual School Wellness Investigations measure changes in school environments.
A. I walk the talk healthy lifestyles with this mantra: Fun=Motivation=Long-term Success. I focus on all dimensions of wellness and with two sporty boys, continue to adjust my efforts to stay successful with our seasonally changing schedule. Trying new approaches to food, fitness and finding balance keeps living healthy fun.
B. Thousands of clients over 25 years have taught me about human behavior, challenges and success. WELCOA resources, dietitian certificate programs and continuing education are vital resources to ensure a scientific basis to support my efforts. Work with media and leadership in organizations has fueled growth.
C. My advice to other wellness practitioners: Be real. Be science-based. Be out there. Volunteering for leadership in professional organizations, mentoring others and saying yes to challenges leads to unexpected growth both personally and professionally. Follow your passion. It will lead you great places.
1) Combining staff and student challenges.
2) Exploring relationships of academic success, fitness and obesity.
3) Engaging wellness champions to promote enhanced communication and best practices.
4) Partnering with worksites to expand the reach of efforts.
5) Host wellness video segments on Channel 10 Health Lincoln TV, Facebook, YouTube and more. Local media features, social media and wellness website to expand reach.
1) Health, behavior and cultural changes with best practices shared, including 9% fitness increase, 2% obesity decrease over five years. Engagement of 25,800+ challenge responses in 2015-16.
2) Cultural leadership shift from fitness and academic success data links. Engagement of businesses partnering for challenges with the schools creating cultural change.
3) Increased reach of wellness messaging and social media growth. (Example: 1,100+ Twitter followers). Features on the news. Monthly column in Community Focus publication.
A. Threats: The physical focus is out of balance with the other five dimensions of wellness. We need to better support social, emotional, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual wellness. Just as we are focusing on the whole child in education, so should the focus be on the whole adult. Misinformation is pervasive! Well-trained health professionals need to be the voice of wellness, backed by sound evidence.
Opportunities: Leading communities in a sound direction will be easier than ever, due to increased public interest and cultural change. More well-trained health professionals are moving toward a wellness and prevention focus. Use of existing, low/no cost routes to provide information and support are available, we just need to utilize the opportunities.
B. In the next five years, I will work to grow systems which enhance, empower and support the health of our LPS community of students, families and staff.