• Current Company: State of Idaho
• Job Title: State Employee Wellness Coordinator
• Industry Type: State Government
• Years in The Field: 1.5 years in current role; 7 years total
• Organization Size: 25,000 employees
• Education: Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition; Master of Public Health
• Certifications achieved: Certified Health Coach
Angela Kraft, MPH
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LEADERSHIP
My interest in the Health Promotion Industry began with a love of food. Taking Nutrition 101 as a sophomore in college offered my first glimpse into how I could use a passion for food to help others. Three weeks into the semester I changed my major from Biology to Food and Nutrition and never looked back! Throughout my coursework I found myself drawn to the community aspect over the clinical side of the profession. Intuitively I understood that I could have a bigger impact if I focused my energy on prevention.
Learning more about the upstream approach to disease prevention led me to pursue a Master of Public Health. I worked full-time as an Employee Wellness Coordinator at a local hospital while taking a full load of master-level credits. I look back at this season of my life with great fondness. I was learning about ideas, models, and theories that I found fascinating all while being able to draw on real-world examples from my day job. Immersing myself in the world of health promotion solidified my choices and made me excited to work in the field.
While I worked at the hospital during graduate school, I would receive monthly e-newsletters from the state of Idaho Employee Wellness Program Manager. I remember thinking how neat it would be to be in that role and work to improve wellness around the entire state. It is surreal to say, but I am now that person! I take pride in the fact that I am in this leadership role that I looked up to years ago. I feel gratitude daily that I get to come to work with the goal of helping our employees, and ultimately our state, thrive.
Since defending my thesis and earning my master’s nearly five years ago, I have continued to learn and grow as a wellness professional. Most recently, I became a certified health coach. The competencies I gained not only improved my communication with individuals, but also my effectiveness with groups. I am the only dedicated employee wellness professional for the entire state, so wellness committees are critical to the success of our program model. Honing my coaching skills has helped me better support wellness committees move forward with goals and benchmarks that they are truly invested in.
My approach to health promotion has evolved and matured over the near decade I have worked in the field. As I learn and grow through personal and professional experiences, I find myself with a more wholistic perspective on the best way to engage individuals in sustainable health improvement. I believe that promoting wellness is about helping employees identify what it is that makes them feel their best. Leading the well-being initiative for Idaho’s 25,000 employees has taught me that people are more likely to engage in their personal well-being if they first feel seen, heard, and valued.
SUCCESS & INNOVATION
I am the state of Idaho’s only dedicated employee wellness profession for our 25,000 employees. I feel fortunate to have a network of over 115 wellness champions throughout the state, most of who assist on volunteer basis. Without the support of these wellness champions, it would be nearly impossible to effectively disseminate program information and promote resources to our 63 state agencies.
The evolving climate of the employee wellness field prompted Idaho to make a strategic shift in the wellness approach for state employees. Instead of improving health to enhance well-being, the program now focuses more on improving well-being with the understanding that better health will follow. It is our belief that health will be an unavoidable byproduct of improved well-being overall.
The updated mission and vision reflect this deliberate transition. Employees need to know that the wellness program is here to support more than just flu shots and weight loss. The long-term plan for state of Idaho employee wellness includes strategies that promote feeling good in all dimensions of life.
In January 2019 we launched the first well-being challenge aligned with the updated mission and vision. The month-long challenge was called the Well-Being Wheel Team Challenge. Participants were encouraged to form teams with their colleagues and complete small tasks to earn sections of the well-being wheel (health, meaning, connection, and resiliency). Tasks included things like having lunch with a co-worker; practicing self-affirmation; volunteering; and doing a mindfulness exercise. Teams were asked to submit photos and stories from their experiences. I was blown away by the responses received! Who would have thought that such a simple challenge could have so much impact? Here is an example of the types of comments submitted:
In addition to the qualitative feedback received, the participation numbers were some of the best noted from any challenge or initiative in over a year! There were 86 teams that participated in the challenge and the completion rate was over 86%. To put that in perspective, the average completion rate for the previous four incentive challenges was just 18.3%. Over 86% of respondents agreed that the challenge influenced their team to make healthier choices and over 93% wanted to participate in similar wellness initiatives in the future.
Culture shift was the most notable outcome of the well-being wheel challenge initiative. This was just the first step in implementing a new approach to employee wellness for the state of Idaho and the reception confirmed that this shift is needed and welcome!
My goal over the next five years is to incorporate well-being training into all levels of state employment. I envision an integration of wellness approaches from entry-level to executive, so all employees feel cared for and supported.
As wellness professionals it is imperative that we do not lose sight of the people behind the programs we manage. Health goes beyond eating kale or running 10K’s. Employee wellness is more than flu shot clinics and weight loss challenges. People are not their biometric values. Everyone deserves to feel good and with wholistic, thoughtful, and innovative approaches to wellness, everyone can!