Whitney is a Senior Community Health Specialist and contractor for the Montana Cancer Control Program in beautiful Missoula, Montana. She has worked in the health field for more than 10 years and has a passion to see people thrive. As a part of the MCCP Whitney is responsible for at least 3 worksites each year. She has gone above and beyond this requirement by taking on her own workplace and the Missoula County employees as well. The worksites she has worked with vary in size from the local hospital employing over 1,000 people to small financial firms and the local mall employees. She has a passion for building sustainable programs that are firmly built on the WELCOA 7 benchmarks. In addition to the systems change work, Whitney has been instrumental in shaping the direction of the Montana Cancer Control Program with leadership skills and vision, she serves as the Chair for the Nutrition and Physical Activity subcommittee of the Montana Cancer Coalition, Co-chairs the Missoula Radon Coalition, and has received two grants for cancer prevention projects implemented in Missoula. Whitney's passion for wellness extends beyond the walls of the Missoula City County Health Department into the surrounding communities and state.
I graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Health Promotion and Exercise Science in 2004. As a young professional I began my career as a Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor. I decided to change career paths and worked as a Health Educator at several different sites including allopathic clinics, an acupuncture office and a naturopathic office. With the array of health knowledge I had gained it was a natural transition into a Senior Community Health Specialist for the Montana Cancer Control Program. During this time, I have completed the requirements to become WELCOA faculty which has been the single most beneficial training I have received in the worksite wellness field.
The Montana Cancer Control program is designed to make dynamic systems change by targeting 3 worksites for two-three years each. As we know in health promotion, behavior and policy change are slow and difficult tasks to accomplish. After my first year working with the worksites it was clear that the 24 month allowance was not sufficient time for most worksites to build and launch a sustainable worksite wellness program. I successfully advocated adding an extra year to each worksite allowing worksites 36 months with a MCCP contractor. This was very instrumental in allowing time to build relationships with senior leadership, build a solid team of champions, collect data and implement programs, and then evaluate. The most successful worksite I’ve been a part of thus far is Mineral Community Hospital in Superior Montana. Their CEO Ron supports and lives the vision of wellness and attends each wellness committee meeting. This has paved the way for a strong and effective team that has taken their successful Walking 4 Wellness program above and beyond their employees. After a trial run last October 2015, the wellness team was not satisfied with leaving the program within their workplace. They had a vision for a larger community health effort so in early spring a community survey was taken to collect data. This data was used to design a walking and "Hiking With a Historian" program to serve the employees and the whole community. The media caught wind of the program and the vision spread gaining participants from 3 neighboring counties. By the end of the 6 week initiative, the whole community had come together for the sake of health and fun. The evaluations were so positive that they envision building on this each year and making it an annual community health series. My second favorite project is getting to be on the ground floor of restructuring the Missoula County wellness program. This is a very large group of diverse agencies and organizations and has the potential to have a large impact in Missoula. For the last several years the committee has been program based but with a leadership turnover there is now room to start fresh with the 7 benchmarks and move from program based to results oriented. We have already gained leadership support, expanded our existing team and collected data. I look forward to the coming year of restructure and true wellness progress.
Health is not just something I preach; I love to lead a healthy lifestyle with my family. Our evenings and weekends consist of biking, skateboarding, running, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and my new hobby of aerial ballet. Life is about balance and wellness so we take care of our physical health with exercise and great food, our spiritual and social health through church, our emotional health through EFT, EBT, family meetings, and other stress management techniques, and our mental health by dreaming for our future and minimizing our unnecessary busyness. The resources and experiences I attribute my leadership success to would be my passion for wellness, each of my previous jobs, my co-workers, and WELCOA. Each of these has helped me advance in my field. My advice to those seeking leadership in the health field would be to collaborate as much as possible. We learn so much from each other and can do better work when done as a collaborative effort. Lead by example and lead as a servant leader not as a dictator. Wellness is an ever changing and evolving field so read, listen, engage and never stop learning.
As wellness professionals it is important to be ever evolving and following trends of the industry. Using the most current and evidence based information is vital to a growing and thriving health field. There are four places I have directly been proactive or innovative. The first would be retraining school health educators in the latest nutrition information. For example they now educate about the benefits of healthy fats instead of the outdated low-fat recommendation. Secondly, I have helped rewrite the task order and work plan for the Montana Cancer Control Program’s contractors to reflect the 7 benchmark structure. This has given contractors a better framework to develop sustainable programs, had a trickle-down effect to each of the 36 worksites we work with across the state, and has made our reporting and evaluation much more effective. The final two innovations were previously mentioned; the restructuring of the Missoula County wellness program and adding 12 months to our contracted time with each site.
My long-term vision for the Health Promotion industry is to see integration, collaboration and buy-in from all people. I would like to see a world where the idea of “Capturing Senior Level Support” is no longer a step in wellness because it is already so ingrained in our culture. I would love to see prevention and medicine speak the same language. I would like to see our leaders, investors, and political powers truly care for our people’s wellbeing before profits, and to be able to trust what is in our food, water and consumable products. In the short-term, I think technology is the single biggest opportunity and threat to the wellness industry. The science of wellness can explode with the capabilities we now have, but “screen time” and work addiction present such real and powerful barriers to individual health. In the next five years I plan to continue prevention work and learn more about the field of integrative medicine.