Over the past 6 years, I have experienced a 360 degree view of corporate wellness through holding diverse positions in the field, providing different vantage points. Initially I was a Wellness Specialist in-house at an employer, then a Wellness Program Consultant at a wellness vendor and currently serve as a Wellness Consultant at NFP, a benefits consultant/broker with over 3,000 employees.
At NFP, I serve as the NYC-based Wellness Consultant. I work with clients seeking wellness program to help their employees live healthier, more productive and happier lives. Working on the broker side enables me to positively impact even more lives, as I work with many different employers of various sizes ranging from 200 to 11,000 employees. My clients look to me for wellness strategy and ideas so it is important that I not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. That is why I have taken on a major role in NFP’s internal wellness program, which has made my experience even more rewarding and insightful. Not only am I affecting the lives of my co-workers, but I’m also serving as a resource and example for my clients.
Providing healthy options for my colleagues
After graduating Cum Laude from Tulane University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minors in both Psychology and French, I was unsure of my career path. I accepted a job developing conferences in healthcare, knowing nothing of the field at the time. After years of planning conferences about healthcare and corporate wellness programs, I found the clarity I was looking for in my career path: I wanted to be an expert in the field and speak at these events. As a result, I went back to school and got a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from Hunter College in NYC. I graduated with a Certificate of Excellence with a concentration in Community Health Education in 2012. I also became a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Since then, I also became a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist in 2015 through the Corporate Health and Wellness Association. I have attended webinars and conferences such as the WELCOA conference in 2015, all of which have helped in my pursuit of lifelong learning.
My MPH degree has been invaluable, as it provides a unique view into population health management, teaching me to assess a population and develop interventions to target the areas of highest risk. In my personal life, I have always been focused on living a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle; therefore, the marriage of my personal interests with the MPH has fueled my passion in corporate wellness and helping others.
Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to stay current on the corporate wellness industry and be creative with interventions to truly engage employees to take control of their wellbeing. One of the proudest days in my career, however, was as a result of a basic Know Your Numbers campaign, as part of a larger wellness initiative. WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks where instrumental when implementing the wellness program with my client. We began with securing CEO support (Benchmark #1), and subsequently implemented the Know Your Numbers Campaign to collect baseline data informing future wellness programming (Benchmark #3). Employees received $125 for completing an annual physical and a health assessment. Although it was one of the more basic parts of the program, it ultimately became one of my biggest successes resulting in the following email from an employee:
“I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU. You saved my life. I had not gone for blood work for over a year. The girls at my job kept telling me to do the KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. So I decided to do it. Well…my cholesterol was over the safe zone and my sugar level, even after fasting for 12 hours was really over the safe zone. My grandmother had passed on from diabetes. I felt fine. I had no clue that my blood work would come back like this. I thought that I was healthy. I am only 4 feet 9 inches tall and I weigh 109 pounds… If it was not for the KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (and of course the $125.00) I probably would not have gone for the blood test and I would not have known my numbers. I know [I] have to make a life change. More exercise and less carbs, more water and less sugars. Please keep KNOW YOUR NUMBERS going go for us. Thank you again.”
The initial goals of the Know Your Numbers campaign were to obtain baseline aggregate data to inform programming and to help employees know their risks to improve their lifestyle by increasing physical activity, eating better, etc. In this individual’s case, the intervention not only achieved these goals, but effectively changed her life by motivating her to modify her behavior. We published this employee’s story in the company’s newsletter and found that individuals who read it were incredibly moved. My recent attendance at the Work Room conference about habit change and how to become an employer of choice reinforced this important lesson: people respond to stories, not just statistics. Knowing that 29 million people in the US have diabetes does not speak to someone as much as the story of a co-worker, who was seemingly healthy and found out she needed to make changes to save her life. This was an amazing experience and that outcome and email is exactly why I am so passionate about corporate wellness.
NFP has a wonderful wellness program for all employees nationally. I have become the leader in the NYC office, promoting the company’s initiatives and goals while simultaneously implementing activities locally to create a corporate culture that fosters wellbeing, health and fun. As a consultant, my clients rely on me for strategy and ideas. I utilize NFP’s internal program to not only improve the lives of my coworkers, but also serve as an example to clients.
I have brought in various speakers and vendors to address all aspects of health: mental, physical and emotional. I have brought in meditation and yoga classes for stress management and mental wellbeing, partnered with a local hospital to have a dermatologist do skin cancer screenings, implemented an online farmer’s market that allows employees to order fresh, healthy food from local farms, coordinated a boot camp class in Central Park, coordinated flu shots and biometric screenings at our annual health fair, and created a team in the American Diabetes Association Step Out Walk to fight Diabetes. I even invited my colleagues to a dance class for my birthday.
To become a leader in the field, it is important to look at individuals holistically, not solely focusing on the physical. You want employees to thrive not just physically, but emotionally, financially and mentally. In addition, a lot is gained from looking at and tackling the different contexts that can effect true behavior change, including policies, the physical environment, the social context of others as well as the self.
There are two important aspects of my background and current job that allow me to be innovative and take a different, more strategic approach to population health management. Firstly, my public health background has taught me to look at groups of people, conduct a needs assessment, develop interventions to target the high risk areas and then evaluate the program. Coming into the field with an MPH has reinforced the need for data collection to measure the impact of the program on individual employees, the company’s bottom line, culture and more. Secondly, the use of data in my profession allows for innovation and strategy. As a broker/consultant, I have access to claims data from insurance carriers, in addition to data from biometric screenings, health risk assessments, and employee surveys. My role is to evaluate all of this data to not only develop a wellness strategy, but also to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, showing impacts in health status improvements, cost savings, culture change, productivity and other insightful statistics.
I’m extremely optimistic for the future of the Health Promotion industry. The momentum for this field has already been growing over the past several years and it is primed to continue to expand and develop. Over the next 5 years, I hope professionals in the industry continue to harness the buzz about treating the whole individual, mentally, physically, financially and emotionally. It is also important to utilize the areas in the Affordable Care Act that focus on prevention and incorporate other benefits into a wellbeing strategy. Wellbeing should not be siloed, instead it should include health benefits, occupational safety and other areas within an organization.
Over the next 5 years, I plan to continue learning about new technology and ideas to improve both NFP’s wellness program and also my clients’. I want to learn from others in the industry through building upon their successes and failures to continue to empower employees to take control of their health, change their behaviors and live healthier, happier lives. My goal is to receive more of those “thank you” emails from employees who were affected by wellness initiatives. Positive outcome are what make this job so rewarding and I am grateful to be in a position to positively affect people’s lives.