My name is Brianna Peterson and I am a Registered Dietitian and Wellness Coordinator for Group & Pension Administrators, Inc. GPA is located in Dallas, Texas, and is the largest privately owned TPA in the Southwest. I have been a Registered Dietitian for approximately 4 years and a Wellness Coordinator for approximately 6 years (3 years with GPA). I am currently the Wellness Coordinator for GPA, as well as several other clients. The organization size of the clients I work with range from about 75 employees to about 700 employees. I absolutely love what I do and would not trade this job for the world.
Knowing your why for wellness is so motivational! These are some of the "why's" at GPA.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas State University in 2005. After attaining a job as a Lease Analyst for Shell Oil for 2 years, I realized my true passion was for wellness. Shell had a fabulous wellness program, which stirred my interest to become a Registered Dietitian and enter into the wellness field. I completed a combined RD internship/Master’s program at Texas Woman’s University and consider this most valuable to my career. Since entering the wellness field, I have achieved WELCOA Faculty status. I highly value continuing education and am thankful for all that WELCOA offers.
The main health concern that I see in most of my groups, including GPA, is that of weight management. I have helped two groups develop their own weight management programs. Both of these groups have individuals that thrive off of support and camaraderie. Therefore, a support group with individual goal setting was best for these groups. Client A named their group Downsize and needed me to create and develop one wellness-related game or challenge, an additional resource flyer, and two emails for each month of the program. Client B named their group Shape into Fitness (later changed to Coaching Healthy Behaviors). Client B has a wellness-minded human resource contact who I felt would be perfect as the primary “coach.” I shared with him the recommendation to take a course from the Cooper Institute in Dallas with an emphasis on motivational interviewing, goal setting, and helping others make behavior changes. He took the Coaching Healthy Behaviors course and later that year we had the program added to the wellness program.
Client A had a 40% participation rate in the Downsize program in 2013. The Wellness Champions at the site were in charge of leading the support group and holding the weigh-ins each week. The benchmarks that were used for this particular program include creating cohesive wellness teams (the Wellness Champions to lead), collecting data to drive health efforts (health risk summary report), choosing appropriate interventions (weight loss program since weight was number one risk factor), and creating a supportive environment (through a support group setting).
Client B decided to have this program be a 10-week program with an initial goal setting visit with the “coach” first. Then, subsequent visits were as a support group. The 10-week sessions were limited to ~15 participants. At the goal setting, the individual set a SMART goal to work on during the 10-week session. Some goals were weight-related, but most were habit-related. This program worked well for this group, as it created behavior change at the individual level. Each participant set his/her own goal and worked on achieving it. The goal was not provided for them. The benchmarks that were used for this program include collecting data to drive health efforts (health risk summary report and biometric data), carefully crafting an operating plan (the coach got educated and had a plan in place for the program prior to the start), choosing appropriate interventions (one-on-one and support level intervention with goal setting), and creating a supportive environment (weekly support group environment).
I consider myself a leader in the wellness field, because my passion for wellness does not end at 5pm. I live and breathe wellness. I developed a wellness blog to reach out to my family, friends, and acquaintances. I strive to help all different types of people find simple and delightful ways to live healthy, not just clients and co-workers. The resources and experiences that have helped me grow as a wellness coordinator include WELCOA courses, networking, social media, continuing education, dietetic practice group involvement, my clients, my co-workers, and the company that I work for. My advice to others in this field is to never lose sight of why you are in this field. You can’t motivate and empower others to live healthy if you do not fully believe in yourself and your work. Know your why so you can help others find their why.
All wellness coordinators are innovators of sorts. I absolutely love the team that I belong to because we work together when creating new activities and solutions for our clients. As the Wellness Coordinator for GPA, I highly value and seek feedback regarding the wellness program. This year, I created new questions and had employees fill out the survey via survey monkey. I had 92 people complete the survey and provide feedback. The best question I had was, “What is your why? Why do you want to make wellness a priority?” I made a video of the answers to share with the executive team at the wellness planning meeting. I don’t have concrete numbers for culture change, but have a feeling if we can shift our wellness program at GPA to one geared towards wellbeing and intrinsic motivation, we will see a huge culture change, as well as individual behavior change.
The biggest threats to the health promotion industry include force and complication. Many wellness programs are pushing people to take part, whether intentional or not. People want to make their own decisions and not feel forced. An opportunity to overcome this is to keep wellness programs impactful, yet simple and exciting. I also think that wellness programs need to help people find intrinsic motivation. In the next 5 years, I hope to gain a deeper understanding for wellbeing, mindfulness, and providing a place where people can talk openly and honestly. Shame has a negative impact on wellness all the way around so we need to take away stigmas that wellness is about perfect eating, perfect fitness, perfect sleep, etc. Wellness is more about developing simple habits and progressing into a healthier lifestyle than it is about perfection. I strive to help people see that and feel comfortable enough to talk.