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ENTRY FROM: 2019 Top Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Rafael Aristeo Curiel

Bringing E.N.E.R.G.Y. to Employee Wellness Programs

I work for City of McAllen Employee Wellness Division as the Employee Wellness Coach. I have been working for the McAllen City Government for 3 years. We have two organization sites. The first is our employee focused site
www.mcallen.net/wellness
Here employees manage their accounts for a points based reward system as well as give feedback, review store items, make purchases and contact our WellNexus partners.
The second site is public facing facebook site www.facebook.com/cityofmcallenwellness
Here both employees and non employees alike can watch our in house created videos, participate in raffles and contests and get updates on community wide health initiatives.
The City of McAllen Employee Wellness Division helps City Employees from all City Departments from Airport to Zoning. It is a Comprehensive Wellness Program that includes Wellness Coaching, Body Composition Monitoring, a points based system for rewards and an emphasis on working one to one with each employee to find the best fit for improving health outcomes. We work hand in hand with Employee Benefits to provide great service to participating City Employees.

Professional Development -

Five years ago I was giving a presentation on Antioxidants at a free health seminar created by one of my mentors at the local library. I did not know it at the time but the Benefits Director for the City of McAllen (Jolee Perez)  was in the audience during  the presentation. After the event was over Jolee approached us, introduced herself and asked if I would be interested in applying for the job of Employee Wellness Coach. I said – “Wow that sounds neat, what does a Wellness Coach do?”  Up until that moment I had heard of Wellness Coaching but really did not know of anybody who was working at it full time.  I myself was already working full time as a Middle School Teacher and part time as a Licensed Massage Therapist and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I was told that my current skills could be put into good use to create our employee Wellness Program. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies and a Certification for Secondary Education. I really enjoyed teaching but after hearing about the impact that Wellness Coaching could have, I decided to put my best foot forward. The process of getting hired took 2 years, but it eventually led to me becoming the City’s first full time Wellness Coach.

These first 3 years have really flown by. As soon as I was hired by the City we began our Group Workout Program. We would met 3 days per week at an exercise facility. In our first year a total of 950 sessions were taken by all participants and a total 570,000 calories were burned. Additionally, we learned about both the Mayo Clinic Wellness Coaching Program as well as the National Board Certification for Wellness Coaches. As soon as we heard about these opportunities we knew the clock was ticking on getting nationally board certified. If we wanted to bring the best to our employees, we knew we had to go and train with the best. The investment really paid off.

Just this January I have completed the process and am now a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach NBC-HWC. I was very grateful to WELCOA for leading me and my supervisors to the right course work and being on top of the latest trainings. I think anyone who wants to be a leader in the field should take all of the WELCOA online trainings and of course attend as many of the Summits as they can. 

 

 

Success Stories –

Our top 10 participants in the Wellness Program in the year 2017 lost a combined total of 179 lbs. They also lost a combined 66 inches from their belly, waist and hip measurements. The participants in this same group had 19% more muscle and 34% less fat than when they started the group training program.

Moving on to 2019, we have more and better data that shows the results from the program. When we compare our data to findings in a Duke University Study on how BMI relates to costs in health plans we can see some great savings, both now and moving forward. From what we are able to measure currently, we estimate that the top 100 city employees who participate in the Wellness Program are responsible for a combined savings of $24,150 since the start of the program. This data will be available soon on our employee website in the form a dashboard.  The plan is to keep this data updated in hopes that all employees can take some ownership of the success we are seeing here at City of McAllen.

Changes and Improvements  

Since the creation of the program in 2016 one of the biggest changes culturally has been and increase of self efficacy among participants. Being a collection of tight knit communities, the population of the small cities in the Rio Grande Valley is known for following the norms set by school, family and lifelong peers.  As such, many people fall into the trap of “I am just going to do what everyone else is doing so that I don’t  be too much of a bother” or “If I take too much time to take care of myself I feel like I am being selfish”. We encourage employees to make their health a priority. Here at the Wellness Division we provide a thinking space for employees to come and take some time for themselves and figure out what is most important to them as it pertains to their health. This is a space that exists where our employees can come and make plans, then see those plans become a reality. Even if it is one small step at a time.   

Vision -

The biggest threat to the Health Promotions industry, as I see it, is having too many awesome professionals shy away from growth opportunities because they themselves are hesitant to wade into “strange waters”. It’s a great feeling to be in the top of your field, have all the certifications and licenses that your professional colleagues have. However, there is a lot to be said for starting down a completely new path.  Maybe if you are a Board Certified Wellness Coach you might be at home in an office seeing one client at a time. Why not stretch yourself and start taking opportunities to talk to large groups?  In the same way I  would encourage a fitness trainer who is at home in the gym to step out of that comfort zone by calling clients to ask how them how they  are doing and if they are thinking about making any new positive changes in their life (aside from their lifting program). Try not to fall into the trap of being too comfortable. Getting too comfortable in what we are already good at means not being geared for growth. My best advice- stay coachable and be ready to delve into new skill sets outside of traditional health promotion. This way, when change comes, you can be a part of the change instead of watching it pass you by.

I believe the best way to start down a new path is to connect and network with local experts. People who are ready to go the distance with you as you make positive changes. For this reason, we have created a project called the WellNexus. As of 2019 we have 27 Local vendors and sponsors that have joined the WellNexus Program.  We offer networking opportunities for chiropractors, massage therapists, trainers, restaurants with healthier options, hospitals and doctors. The goal is to partner with these experts and offer some of what they know to our employees. In a broader sense we also want to help these businesses and organizations have more opportunities to have their message heard. We have leveraged these partnerships to provide prizes for our Employee Wellness Store as well prizes for online raffles for the participants in the It’s Time Texas Challenge ( which we won in the year 2018 and 2019).

One of my main goals for the next 4 years is to ensure more local large institutions have heard about and become interested in creating positions for Nationally Board Certified Wellness Coaches in their organizations.  La Joya ISD, City of Laredo, City of Edinburg, McAllen ISD are all currently networking with City of McAllen Wellness Division in order to design wellness programs that will include a Nationally Certified Health and Wellness Coach for their employees. Together we can make the Rio Grande Valley a healthier place.

References-

Obesity Increases Workers' Compensation Costs. Duke University News. Durham N.C.

Published April 23, 2007 | Updated January 20, 2016

https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/hssr/staff-profile/prof-truls-ostbye

https://corporate.dukehealth.org/news-listing/obesity-increases-workers-compensation-costs

WELCOA Leadership Essentials Webinar- Designing an Operation Plan. 2017. Omaha NE.   

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Rafael C.
I am the Wellness Coach for the City of McAllen Employee Wellness Division. We help City Employees from all City Departments from Airport to Zoning. It is a Comprehensive Wellness Program that includes Wellness Coaching, Body Composition Monitoring, a points based system for rewards and an emphasis on working one to one with each employee to find the best fit for improving health outcomes. We work hand in hand with Employee Benefits to provide great service to participating City Employees. View Rafael C.'s Profile.
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