ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Susan Kolon

The Wellness Curator: Educate, Motivate, Celebrate!

Susan Kolon has principal ownership of Kolon Performance Strategies. She brings 15 years of overall industry experience to the company, and has been consulting for 10 years.

Professional Development 

As a communications professional in health and wellness, I hold a BA and MS in Communications from Michigan State University and Northwestern University, respectively. Both degrees gave me the technical expertise and knowledge to advance my career. But it is my certification as a Faculty WELCOA member -- and continues through additional trainings - that is advancing me in my field. A blend of practical learnings and applied science allows me to take immediate action for my clients. I can recall posting on social media a remarkable statistic from a WELCOA webinar on the harmful effects of sitting for more than 2 hours:  'sitting is the new smoking' that caught the attention of a great number of my followers: wow, what immediate, effective reach!

Demonstrated Success 

Junior Achievement USA is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship education programs for K-12 students. With a moderate financial wellness promotion budget, its challenge was to use its 1,000 employees to "walk the talk" when it came to carrying the marketing message to its parents, volunteers, teachers, donors and other community stakeholders.  Specifically, when it came to financial wellness education, JA curriculum in the classroom would result in a well-educated child in the basics of finance that would carry through to adulthood. Indirectly, we addressed stress and peace of mind from our end consumer (parent, teacher, donor) through behavior and culture change of our employee (JA associate).  

Since this demonstration of success is innovative, I will concentrate on the benchmarks as indicators of success:

We gained "CEO support" from the onset and used him throughout the 6-month process whenever we needed an extra push in the field. We were asking an entire culture to become engaged in a way that was new to them: to be brand ambassadors, the ‘mouthpiece’ to their external constituents.  So we created a financial wellness team ('committee") that worked side by side with the core messaging team to create the scientific, disciplined approach to messaging and positioning architecture, as well as national public relations and social media strategies. We developed a research survey ("health assessment") so we could get the message right, create a baseline and benchmark our results, and developed an operating plan that consisted of the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide message map and 15 training sessions to disseminate to the field. We piloted two and then retooled ("interventions"). Our wellness team became champions ("supportive environment") and we "evaluated our outcomes": more than 95% of the staff completed the training and is equipped with valuable and customizable talking points to support goals such as financial wellness education, volunteer recruitment and fundraising. The map effectively transformed all Junior Achievement USA associates into brand ambassadors. Since the original message map, several more maps have been created, thus extending the financial wellness message deeper into the community. 


I am the fourth in a family of six siblings and long the one looking inside and outside the environment for the best and right choices for harmony and coexistence. That has to exist in the workplace as well. I like to create spaces where the choices for good health are easy to make and where dialogue includes employees actively helping shape the criteria for those choices - for lunch meeting food, for workstations, for the art on the walls (many of us are marketing people after all!). I believe that my leadership in creating a healthful environment is a critical step toward more high performing, engaged employees. You might only have anecdotal evidence in this area at present; be resourceful with your own team's performance reviews and testimonials as you look at their improving engagement, satisfaction or productivity scores. Continue to seek out resources that build your case in this fast-growing area. 


Working with the American Diabetes Association and an internal Blue Cross Blue Shield Association program development team, my team spearheaded marketing efforts for a childhood obesity awareness and prevention initiative, The Good Health Club®. Through an illustrated tool kit of educational materials, the program sought to educate and engage children, their parents and pediatricians about the risk of obesity and how healthy habits can improve and maintain children’s nutrition and health status. Collateral materials including waiting-room brochures, take-home activity sheets and journals for patients and their parents, a physician’s guide and BMI tracking chart for healthcare professionals featured customized graphics for three youth age groups (toddlers, pre-teens and teens) and were produced in English and Spanish. Materials were rolled out to more than 20,000 doctors’ offices in 17 states. The cultural change was the most dominant: physicians are reluctant to allow materials in their offices. What won them over was the overt educational nature of the materials and the strong partnership forged with the ADA.

Compelling Vision 

I would like to see an army of wellness curators in the field: those who facilitate the potential of a collection of professionals who desire to bring their best self to their home, their workplace, their community.  Tomorrow’s leaders are focused on purpose and mission as their guidepost. We must move them: we must curate their environment, their stress, their finances, help them be functionally fit.

Ask anyone I’ve worked with: I always say educate, motivate, celebrate! I will continue to work with clients and teams who want to bridge the gap between good intentions and sustained health and well-being. I think real innovation lies in bridging engagement and performance with consciousness and mindfulness. I think wellness curators (the connectors in your organization and who will reside outside of HR) will become powerful champions, connecting employees and creating the sense of effective community that is missing in many corporate environments. It is yeoman’s work, will require tremendous effort – a new dynamic even - but has seen measurable success. I can’t wait!


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