In 2010 Baylor College of Medicine felt compelled to create a culture of wellness throughout their campuses. Although rising healthcare costs were a factor in their decision to create a wellness program, creating an environment for positive behavior change in the Texas Medical Center was the main driver of the Human Resources department (HR). BCM BeWell was a small initiative at first, starting with newsletters and wellness Wednesday’s within HR, but has grown to be one of the most popular programs within the college. Benefits eligible employees, 9,700, can participate in BCM BeWell but we routinely work alongside the student wellness initiative and other departments within our institution to create a cohesive program with a shared message.
I have worked as the wellness coordinator with Baylor College of Medicine since 2014. My 10 years of experience working with a variety of diverse work forces and passion for helping people achieve their goals has helped launch the BCM BeWell program into one of the best programs in the country. Baylor College of Medicine was recently named the 5th Healthiest Employer in the nation by Healthiest Employers LLC. I believe with my background in wellness, “people first” attitude and futuristic vision of prevention and wellness, I believe I am without a doubt one of the top health promotion professionals in the US.
I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Houston Clear Lake as a pre-physical therapy major but soon realized I wanted to help people prevent chronic conditions and illnesses rather than treat them. Since then I have earned an MA from UHCL and achieved certifications as a personal trainer, certified sports nutritionist, certified wellness coach, Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist and became a WELCOA Faculty member. I believe becoming a certified wellness coach helped enhance my skills working with people on an individual basis. I am also very proud that while I have been with Baylor College of Medicine we have won numerous awards including Houston’s Healthiest Employer in 2015.
With the growing number of sedentary jobs in the United States, Baylor College of Medicine knew something had to be done in order to get employees excited about living an active lifestyle. When we first looked at the lifestyle data from our wellness portal vendor, Vitality, at the end of 2014 69% of participants were at high risk for physical activity. This means they did not spend the recommended 150 minutes per week doing moderate to vigorous activity established by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Sixteen percent of those participants reported getting zero physical activity. I wanted to incorporate the growing infatuation for active devices with a personal touch for Baylor College of Medicine. The Getaway to Good Health campaign started in 2015 and has become one of the most influential programs within our institution. Apart of the campaign is a yearly 10 month step challenge to walk, as a group of individuals, around the United States. We started at our Main Campus in Houston, Texas and during 2015 we walked to Panama City Beach, Florida. Along the way we sent monthly newsletters highlighting where we were as a group (using the average total steps) and gave tips, encouragement, and sightseeing information about the location we were in. We also held a mid-point celebration highlighting New Orleans complete with Mardi Gras masks, music, beads, and non-alcoholic smoothies. By the end of year one there was tremendous excitement and numerous success stories. Which include substantial weight loss, individuals with MS getting active again, lower lipid values, and overall higher moral. As a whole, employees where altering their lifestyles to be more active. Individuals started walking around the campus more often, holding walking meetings, and wearing tennis shoes with suits.
In 2016 we started making our way from Florida to New York City. A powerful aspect of the campaign is that there are different locations to earn incentives so people can create their own challenge. For 2016 those locations were Savannah, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia. I believe this gives more employees the ability and self-efficacy to participate. We will continue this campaign until we make our way back to Houston, Texas in 2020. In the two years since we have started this challenge our physical activity has changed dramatically as a whole. As of September 2016 the percentage of high risk individuals that do not routinely participate in 150 minutes of activity every week has dropped 10% and those reporting no activity dropped 7%.
The senior leadership team here at Baylor College of Medicine fully endorses the BCM BeWell program through routine communication and engagement in the program. We are thrilled to have them as some of our biggest advocates. I am also happy to be working with HR to support the BCM BeWell program. We review data from participant surveys, health care claims, pharmacy claims, our wellness portal, biometric screenings, and more. I believe having access to this data helps provide a more targeted and specific approach to wellness and gives us a clearer picture to blend what the population needs with what they want.
Since I began my career in wellness I wanted to help as many people as possible to achieve their goals- whether it is health related, career oriented, or any other dream someone might have for themselves. Through the years I have volunteered on various wellness committees in the city of Houston including Co-Chair of the Houston Corporate Wellness Group and am an active member in the Houston Business Coalition on Health. Personally, I try to follow an active lifestyle and am mindful of what I eat on a regular basis. I teach individuals the concept of moderation and that we cannot expect ourselves to be perfect 100% of the time. I stay active by participating in Crossfit and active events throughout the community including running events, mud runs. In 2017 I will be tackling the BP MS 150 cycling event. I would suggest that individuals just starting their career in health promotion get involved in as many networking groups as they can within their community and start building relationships. I would also suggest they begin a portfolio highlighting their accomplishments as they move up in the field to show potential employers.
I believe to solve a crisis that involves people we need to focus on the source, the people. That is one area I am proud to center on and try to spend majority of my time communicating with the BCM Community. I also believe in integration whenever possible. Within our program we integrate a variety of departments to focus on overall well-being. All of this has led to increased participation in the program, going from 24% in 2014 to currently 54% in 2016. We base our communication off of the common marketing, “Rule of 7”. BCM BeWell uses 20 different forms of communication and sends information out 2 or 3 different points in time leading up to an intervention program or event to give individuals the highest chance to see the information. People are now thinking about their health and well-being on a daily basis.
Over the next 5 years I see the biggest threat that continues to plague our company culture is the business structure itself. We are still trying to undo years of what our current corporate structure has done to the activity and health of our culture. Business environments that cause 40 plus hour work weeks, sitting in front of a computer for hours, commuting, high stress, etc. are some of the biggest factors that have led to the healthcare problems we face today. Our government is focused on a top down approach but they are not looking at the real issue. I believe those of us focused on the grassroots efforts and the individuals making up the system will have the most lasting effect. I will continue encouraging, educating, and empowering those around me to be the best they can while lobbying companies to abandon the old corporate structure mindset and move to one that is more conducive of a healthy lifestyle.