Over the past 6 years, the landscape of healthcare has incurred drastic changes. Reform has forced healthcare companies to evolve their approaches and processes, and the promotion of healthy living has come to the forefront of this conversation. In 2009, Onlife Health and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) began implementing an employee wellness plan that would not only work to nurture a healthier employee population, but also serve as the foundation for which BCBST would launch its health promotion line of offerings to its clients and members. Dylan Phelps joined a small team of wellness experts at BCBST in 2010 as the Director of Corporate Fitness. Together, they confronted the issues that were working to decay the health of their employees and created innovative, practical applications that began to reverse the unhealthy trends that existed. Five years later, 5200 BCBST employees enjoy one of the most robust and successful corporate wellness programs in the southeastern United States. As a population, their health has shown tremendous improvements, and the employee culture has transitioned from mostly sedentary and sick to highly active and healthy. Additionally, the programs and offerings that have transformed the health of BCBST employees are now being made available to 3 million BCBST healthcare coverage members in the quest to achieve better health across the state of Tennessee.
Initially, I was a Pre-Medicine and Dietetics major at the University of Kentucky with aspirations of becoming a pediatrician who would emphasize proper nutrition as preventative medicine within my practice. As a mentee; however, I quickly learned how reactive our healthcare system had become. At that point, I decided to build on my B.S. in Dietetics and attack illness before it happens instead of waiting for it to present itself. Subsequently, I have earned nationally recognized certifications from ACSM, AFAA, and the University of Arizona. Currently, I rank in the top 2% of my MBA program.
In cohesion with other wellness experts, my teams and I create and implement original health promotion products for every stage of health and level of fitness. We currently offer 12 separate programs to our employee population that address a wide array of needs and offer innovative avenues that encourage the attainment of better health. Additionally, our leadership support is more evident than ever as our CFO will be the spokesperson for one of the three additional programs we will launch in 2015. Our program designs range from stress reducing exercises that are performed within a workspace to sports specific trainings that are executed on the court, course and field.
Both our “Neighborhood Exercise and Stretch (NES)” and “Breathing for Stress Reduction (BSR)” programs physically meet our employees where they are. NES involves an Exercise Specialist leading small and large groups through light exercise and stretching routines that specifically target areas that fatigue during long hours working behind a desk, leaving participants energized, refreshed and focused. BSR is a series of audio files that guide participants through breathing exercises proven to reduce the effects of stress. Both programs were created to bolster presenteeism among our workforce and currently serve 800+ participants per month.
Transversely, many of our other programs remove employees from their workspaces and motivate them to exercise and consume healthy nutrition regularly. “Deep Water” and “Genesis” are holistic programs that involve no-to-low impact exercise, comprehensive nutrition education and consultations, and therapeutic aspects that identify and overcome the root issues of unhealthy behaviors. These programs have produced impressive weight loss outcomes. However, they continuously prove to be tremendously effective at reducing blood pressure. Over the past 3 years, they have averaged a 7.9 mm/hg reduction in systolic BP and a 5.8 mm/hg reduction in diastolic BP per participant.
To date, our flagship program, “Thrive”, has manufactured the most success in terms of measurable outcomes. It has facilitated the loss of 4000+ pounds and has served as the foundation for eradicating physical inactivity for 1000+ employees. “Thrive” offers sound, achievable structure that empowers participants to mold exercise and healthy nutrition into their daily lives. Most importantly, it engineers critical, multifaceted support from professionals, family members and colleagues that leads to continued success beyond the 10-week program.
Our programs impact employee’s behavior on both the individual and cultural level. Employees who participate in our wellness offerings have enjoyed measurable decreases in biometric data and have decreased their claims risk and costs compared to those who do not participate. On average, participants demonstrate BMIs that are 2.0 points lower than nonparticipants, TCHOL levels that are 5.1 points lower, blood sugar levels that are 5.6 points lower, are twice as likely to consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables daily, and 3.6% of participants use tobacco compared to 10.2% of nonparticipants. Even more, participants score an average of 1.3 on claims risks whereas nonparticipants’ average score is 2.0, and chronic illnesses exist at a rate that is 8% lower in participants.
Corporate health promotions must be integrated into the fabric of business practices in order to thrive. According to our model, my teams and I are responsible for pursuing documented, individualized, self-guided health improvement goals in an environment that is visible to the employees we serve. Advancing our own health leads to a more impactful influence on those we serve especially when they witness our personal efforts in this area.
The progressive business practices that my team and I create and conduct and the leadership role from which I operate are a result of an immense amount of formal education and research, years of pertinent experience, and a relentless desire lead others to healthier, more enjoyable lives. Health promotions leaders such as WELCOA, WHO, IAWHP and others continuously pave the way for our success. The keys to impacting lives and changing corporate cultures are building relationships, identifying and meeting needs, and maintaining an insatiable devotion to learn and do more.
Together, my cohorts and I have contributed to the advancement of the health promotion industry by expediting lasting lifestyle changes through the integration of original wellness programming and proven methods. Our approach spans far beyond the time it takes to complete a single program or consume a single product. We classify each of our offerings as a segment of a health promotions platform from which lifelong transformations are produced. We do not teach employees to become dependent upon the system. Instead, we use our system to empower our employees to achieve and sustain their goals.
The results from five years of implementing this approach include a substantial cost savings from a reduction in claims (average PMPM $329 for participants vs. $688 for nonparticipants), behavior change on the individual level (85+ employees have lost 50+ pounds), and a dramatic shift towards healthier living within our corporate culture (86.9% participation level).
The health promotion industry is on the brink of a revolution. New healthcare regulations coupled with the increasing trend of chronic illness among Americans is creating the perfect storm for a dramatic shift in the way that healthcare is defined. Treating disease and illness as they surface is no longer a sustainable model. Preventative medicine is the future, and this generation of health promotion professionals will lead the charge as healthcare is reinvented over the next 5 years.
Now is the time to unleash the power of healthy living in our schools, corporations, and residences. The programs that my teams and I created and proved are being delivered to corporations across the state of Tennessee. Additionally, we are obtaining partnerships with like-minded companies to extend our reach into Tennessee communities. Finally, my company is joining the Memphis Grizzlies to eradicate childhood obesity through the “Get Fit” program.