ENTRY FROM: 2019 Top Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Ron Kim

Contributing to the greater good so that the world is a better place

• Current Company: Washington State Health Care Authority
• Job Title: Health Promotion Consultant
• Industry Type: Government
• Years in the Field: 5
• Organization Size: Team of five supports about 500 member organizations with 145,000 employees.

Headshot of Ron Kim (2019)

Professional development

My purpose is to contribute to the greater good so that the world is a better place. Working in both health promotion and the public sector provides the perfect platform.

This journey began 14 years ago when my wife and I welcomed our first child, then our second a year later. Prior to parenthood, I was physically active, but living healthy wasn’t a priority. Our values changed drastically as we aimed to offer our kids the best experience possible.

To illustrate how I walk the talk of living a healthy lifestyle, I’ll share our decision to move from sunny southern California to Washington in 2008.

After four years of incorporating numerous lifestyle improvements, we knew we could do more. Specifically, clean air and water. Unfortunately, we didn’t see an immediate solution where we lived, so we moved. No job lined up and didn’t know a single person in the area. In fact, we only visited once on a weekend trek.

Regardless of these risks, we moved to offer our kids a cleaner greener environment, believing these were significant factors in their health and wellbeing. Life is short, early childhood is critical, and we wanted to improve areas that were out of our control. I’m hoping this gives you a clear sense how I walk the talk for my family and myself.

I didn’t think about translating this newfound purpose and passion into a career until 2014. That’s when I saw the opening for my current role and I’ve been with the team ever since.

To develop professionally for this role, I completed the following trainings and certifications:

  • Chapman Institute (2015)
  • Project Management Institute (2015)
  • Art & Science of Health Promotion Intensive trainings (2016, 2017, 2019)
  • WELCOA Faculty (2018)

I tend not to have favorites, perhaps a byproduct of having two kids, and prefer to believe each training offered beneficial skills.

In terms of what helped me get to where I’m at today, discovering my purpose was key. When I earned my BA in Communication from UC San Diego in 2002, I’m 100 percent positive that I did not envision where I’m at today.  

The best advice I can offer to anyone starting in this field is to keep an open mind. Things change, what works for one does not for all, and new ideas surface all the time. I still have a lot to learn and remain open to all the exciting possibilities. 

Success stories and innovation

Organizational support

Our team’s success occurs at both the organization and employee level. By supporting about 500 employers with 145,000 employees, we’re working with an extremely diverse audience dispersed throughout the state.

To accomplish our goals, we rely on identifying and supporting wellness coordinators at these organizations. However, most are voluntold into the role, turnover frequently, and have varying levels of leadership support.

Despite these hurdles, we’ve made solid progress. Similar to WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks, we offer the SmartHealth Worksite Wellness Roadmap. The roadmap also acts as the annual application for our award to organizations.

In 2014, five organizations utilized our roadmap. When tasked to lead this project in 2015, I implemented these key changes to increase utilization:

  • Plain language replaced technical jargon.
  • Streamline complex form into an online checklist.
  • Convert 150-page user-guide into an online resource.
  • Offer targeted trainings and support.

These changes coupled with our outreach efforts increased utilization each year, peaking in 2018 at 32 (540% increase since 2014).

The dedication of these wellness coordinators who frequently offer up their own personal time is inspirational. Although they are under no obligation to use our roadmap, the fact that they put in the extra time exemplifies their passion for helping others.

Employee support

To support employees on their journey toward living well, our team launched an online wellness platform called SmartHealth in 2015. Here are some key challenges we faced since launch:

  • Crunched project timeline based on legislative schedule.
  • Complex structure supporting so many organizations with distinct cultures.
  • Unable to email members directly.
  • Low financial incentives (currently $150).

Despite these hurdles, here are some highlights from our SmartHealth Effectiveness reports sent to the Washington State Legislature since launch (find from

Year 1 Launch

  • 51,407 enrolled (39% of eligible)
  • 48,452 completed Well-being Assessment (WBA, similar to HRA)

Cohort analysis

  • 27,123 enrollees who completed the WBA in both 2015 and 2016 and self-reported one or more health risks in 2015.
  • Cohort’s average WBA scores improved in every one of the 34 dimensions of health.
  • In 23 dimensions, improvement was greater than 10 percent.
  • Notable increases include life meaning (+29.2%), healthy blood sugar (+23.3%), and back health (+21.9%).

Numbers are nice, but here are other SmartHealth highlights:

  • Ongoing support from Governor Jay Inslee includes leading walking events, sending mass emails, and offering video testimonials.
  • Engagement from various organization leaders includes leading wellness events, video testimonials, and joining wellness committees.
  • Numerous testimonials shared by members about their wellness journey.

Compelling vision

My vision is quality over quantity because people prioritize health at different times in different ways. Numbers are nice, but stories are inspiring.

I see two main threats, which are also opportunities. First is justifying financial worth. The opportunity lies within changing this narrative. The true value of our work goes beyond ROI or VOI. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and that’s why we do it. Second is competition. People are busy doing more than ever before. How can living healthy become a collective priority? When will the majority value health over wealth?

I don’t know exactly what I’ll pursue in the next five years because this industry is constantly evolving. I do know for sure I want to support the advancement of health promotion.

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Headshot of Ron Kim (2019) Ron Kim and family at Lake Quinault, WA. Presentation at the 2019 Healthy Worksite Summit. At the Governor's SmartHealth Walking Event (2018) Reflecting during a long day hike at the Olympic National Forest (WA)
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Ron K.
Ron Kim has been the communication lead for Washington Wellness since 2015 where he supports around 500 member organizations build and grow their wellness program and engages about 145,000 employees on their wellness benefits. Ron has a BA in Communication from UC San Diego, CWPM certification from Chapman Institute, and is a WELCOA Faculty member. His primary purpose is to contribute to the greater good so that the world is a better place. He strives to be an engaged and supportive husband and father to his wife Amanda and daughters Melodi and Serean. View Ron K.'s Profile.
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