As a previous Top 100 Health Promotion Professional, I feel very fortunate to be included again with this amazing group of health professionals.
I have now been in employee benefits and wellness for the past 11 years, currently working for Gehring Group Insurance Brokers & Consultants in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I am the Benefits Administration Specialist for the Martin County School District in Stuart, Florida where we provide service to over 2400 regular employees, over 1000 retirees and their families.
Apple A Day Challenge "Apple Martinis"
2014 Top 100 WELCOA Health Promotion Professional
Certified Worksite Wellness Program Manager
WELCOA Faculty Member
Lifestyle Coach - National Diabetes Prevention Program
The Building Healthy Lifestyles Wellness Program has been recognized as:
American Heart Association Fit Friendly Worksite for 2014-2015 & 2015-2016
Florida Healthy School District Bronze Level 2016-2018
After an early career in the hospitality industry, I sort of fell into employee benefits not really knowing that it would lead me to where I am today. Along with my responsibilities in benefits, I took on the role of the District’s Wellness Leader. Then with the first wellness fair, my commitment to the wellness of others began.
By providing free onsite health screenings that include biometric and heart attack/stroke prevention, employee wellness challenges, disease management programs, onsite EAP seminars, lifestyle management programs, nutrition education and other wellness presentations, employee engagement in the wellness program continues to rise.
While it is still an area of concern, according to aggregate reporting we have seen the risk for diabetes reduce by 6%. Physical activity has increased by 11%, healthier eating is up by 8% and we saw a 4% reduction in stress. Employees lost almost 500 pounds last year from the Biggest Loser contests and other weight loss programs. Member engagement in the programs available to employees through their medical insurance is at 67% which is well above the 36% in their book of business. The district has remained above their benchmarks in most other health screenings available in the last couple years too.
I wanted to boost the Employee Assistance Program and all the services it has to offer. In addition to the services employees can access, we receive 20 hours a year of in-person educational sessions or webinars on all different topics. I met with administrators and the wellness ambassadors and to date, all 20 hours are scheduled.
I have worked with the local area hospitals to build a strong community relationship and take advantage of the various programs they offer. I have been able to do this at little to no cost thus not taking away from the wellness budget.
Looking at WELCOA’s 7 benchmarks, I think the one I am most excited and proud to be a part of is our amazing wellness team. Wellness Ambassadors are employees that have volunteered from every school and worksite to take on the “difficult” task of encouraging their coworkers and all employees to strive for a healthy lifestyle. We wanted to reward them for their hard work so I implemented an incentive program which offers up to $500 annually for worksite participation, hosting and/or completion of various wellness activities.
We are fortunate to have CEO and upper level support for the program. The Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent participated in one of the onsite lifestyle programs offered. Executive level staff competes in the challenges along with their employees and School Board members have served as contest judges.
We receive monthly medical claims utilization reporting, aggregate health screening results and quarterly utilization reports from the EAP provider. We also did an employee wellness program interest survey to get their feedback. This survey had 610 respondents in just 2 weeks. It is important that we address their concerns and consider their ideas. This allows us to choose the appropriate interventions and ensure we are focusing in areas that most need it.
As a benefits professional, I understand the financial reasons to keep employees healthy. As a wellness leader, it is more important to me that they stay healthy so they are there for their family and friends.
I hope that I inspire others to be happy and healthy. With the demands of our jobs, homes, and families, we can’t always maintain a healthy lifestyle 100% of the time. Getting healthy and staying that way is a challenge, even for those in the wellness profession. I send a Wellness Wednesday email every week to the ambassadors for them to share. I like to remind all employees that even small changes can make a difference. There is nothing I enjoy more than having the wellness ambassadors and other employees share their success stories no matter how big or small.
My advice to others… remember wellness is something we do with and for our employees, it’s not something we do to them.
Competition motivates! When incentives and recognition only go to those that participate, interest increases because they don’t want to miss out on what’s next. Examples of our more successful contests and challenges include:
*Annual Cooking Contest – worksites compete for a perpetual trophy and bragging rights. They submit their own recipes that are judged and scored based on taste, calories and presentation. We currently have over 25 recipes in our cookbook.
*Think Water First encouraged employees to give up sugary drinks for water. We saw an increase from 18% to 50% drinking 8 glasses a day and 64% noticed an improvement in their health including weight loss.
* Apple a Day over 400 employees tracked their “apples” every day; Total servings of fruit during the 3 weeks challenge – 9774; 75% of total servings were apples – that’s over 7300 apples! 17% of participants ate at least 2 servings or more a day.
My vision remains that PREVENTION is still the biggest opportunity in the health promotion industry especially in worksite wellness.
Even with preventive care covered on most plans at no cost, I am still surprised by the number of covered employees that do not take the time to just a get simple checkup. So many illnesses are preventable with early detection. We need to inspire employees to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing at every chance we get.
In the next 5 years, my hope is that instead of “Employee Wellness Programs”, we will be able to call them “Employee Lifestyle Programs”.