I’m Mike Liebert, Wellness Program Coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, which consists of approximately 30,000 employees. I’ve been working diligently in the corporate wellness field for over 9 years. The success of Aurora’s wellness program does not boil down to one person, but to the group of individuals that work vigorously to help our programs succeed over time. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a fantastic wellness team at Aurora, whose hard work and passion for wellness are integral in the success and continual improvement of our wellness program, which importantly helps our employees to adopt healthier daily practices resulting in the improvement of the quality of their lives.
I graduated on the Dean’s list from University of Wisconsin – Parkside with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport/ Fitness Management. I’m accredited as a CSCS by the NSCA. My work as a certified personal trainer has greatly influenced my career decisions – fostering a thriving passion for wellness along with a strong will to see others reach their wellness goals, and leading me into the corporate wellness field. Aurora has been recognized by the Wisconsin Business Journal as one of the top 3 healthiest employers (large company category) the past 2 years and currently working toward our 3rd consecutive WELCOA wellness accreditation.
Aurora has taken a major step forward from most wellness programs. We not only offer insurance premium reductions for completing an HRA and/or verifying a tobacco-free status, but for the past two years we have put great focus and energy on helping our employees attain a healthier weight. This healthy weight initiative has been our most effective and impressive intervention. Employees automatically qualify for the BMI wellness credit if they are measured with a BMI less than 30. Any employee with a BMI of 30 or higher has the opportunity to earn the credit by completing one of six different alternative activity choices: (Loss of 5% of initial weight, HMR weight loss program, Weight Watchers Group Meetings or Online, EAP healthy weight phone coaching, and attaining 10 or more monthly Health Club visits over 3 months). The most popular option was quite resounding; for employees to lose 5% of their initial weight. This shows the motivation of our employees to not only earn the financial incentive, but to put a greater focus on reducing their weight to help them live healthier and happier lives.
In the first year of our healthy weight initiative, the outcomes were extraordinary. We were able to document more than 20 TONS of weight loss throughout our organization in 2013. Aurora also showed a statistically significant overall downward shift in the mean BMI of our employees, quite an impressive physical and behavioral change. Collecting and evaluating this data and reporting outcomes is integral in determining the success of our programs and how we continuously improve them. We look forward to documenting even further impressive weight loss outcomes in 2014.
In July of 2013, Aurora introduced its Health Club Subsidy program, partnering with over 200 health clubs across our organizational footprint. The program reimburses employees $15 monthly for attending their health club 10 or more times. To date, Aurora has over 3,800 employees enrolled in the program.
To improve the culture of wellness across our organization, Aurora’s system wellness team made a concerted effort to visit over 150 sites during 2013. The goal was to meet with employees face to face to discuss our wellness programs.
The 7 Benchmarks continue to be integral in the success of our wellness program at Aurora. Each of these benchmarks is an important cog in our overall wellness initiatives and operating plan, beginning with capturing CEO support. Our CEO is an active individual who serves as a great role model of healthy living and regularly communicates via blog and email messages to the entire organization his support and encouragement of our wellness initiatives. Without the resounding support from the top down in our organization, I firmly believe that our wellness program would not be where it is today. Also, being such a large organization, we find it advantageous to have wellness teams spread throughout the local level of our organization, all of which run on the same agenda as our system Wellness Advisory Team, made up of senior leaders at Aurora.
Leadership is about role modeling and empowering others to be the best they can be. Without personally practicing the lifestyle I preach, I would not be able to inspire others. I put great focus on nutrition, exercise, and mental well-being on a daily basis. I believe that practicing healthy habits at home and in the workplace will allow those around me to see the benefits of healthy behaviors and help me serve as an effective role model. Years of experience working one-on-one with clients at various stages of motivation and ability have given me valuable insight into effective coaching and realistic goal-setting. I’ve applied these skills in helping develop Aurora’s initiatives to empower employees in adopting healthier lifestyles. Our wellness team’s visibility, via regular communication and consistent face-to-face interaction with employees, has advanced our leadership status across the organization. My advice to other wellness practitioners is to make ongoing visibility a priority, striving for as much face-to-face interaction as possible.
I believe that Aurora is ahead of the curve by prioritizing the intervention of healthy weight with our employees. In 2015, we plan to push even further ahead, as we will offer our BMI wellness credit to spouses/ domestic partners of our employees. By offering this credit to spouses/domestic partners, our goal is to not only improve the health and wellness of our employees, but also to help improve the health and wellness of our employees’ families. To help battle the growing obesity ‘epidemic’, we offer financial incentives, and an array of tools focusing on nutrition, physical activity, and mental wellness as options to help improve their overall health. By including spouses/domestic partners into our BMI wellness credit, we hope to greatly add to the already documented 20 tons (and counting) of weight loss within our organization in 2013, and most importantly help our employees’ families become healthier and happier.
The prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases and the overwhelming evidence of the individual and wider harms they cause present a compelling case for health promotion professionals to take decisive and urgent action in this area. By empowering people to make informed choices, we can play a central role in enabling people to take greater responsibility for their own health and in reducing the burden of lifestyle-related disease on society as a whole. Over the next five years, I plan to feverishly broadcast the message to be pro-active, not re-active and inspire individuals to get out in front of these health issues. I will continue being a role model, to counsel and support on an individual level, and preach and celebrate the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices, while helping Aurora lead the charge in corporate wellness and becoming a model and benchmark for other large integrated health care systems across the country.