In 2012, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) was ready to start seeing results from its Wellness program. After implementing the program in 2006, its 5,000 employees were not only heavier than the national average, but also heavier than the State and its customers. The company launched the 5 Ton Challenge, led by Health and Wellness Consultant Christy Colgan, in 2012 to help move the scales in the right direction. Since starting at BCBSNC in 2008, Christy has spent the last 6 years implementing corporate wellness challenges, disease management programs, and worked internally to bring Wellness to the forefront through leadership engagement meetings, work groups and Health Ambassadors.
Our CEO Brad Wilson challenged employee to lose 10,000 pounds, or 5 tons by September 2012. The 5 Ton Challenge provided a fun, interactive learning opportunities, strong support and plenty of resources to help in the weight-loss journey. See 2013 video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a1LEdLA2TU
BS Exercise Physiology, ECU, 2007
MBA, NCSU, 2013
BCBSNC CEO Award 2014
I fell in love with Wellness during my first grade science fair project where I compared heart rates of my dad and me during and after exercise. At ECU I was a research assistant in the Human Performance Lab, and decided I wanted to help stop the obesity trend in NC. Post graduate, I worked as an ACE PT at Gold’s and a Health Fitness Specialist for Medifit. Now, I’m the Health and Wellness Consultant at BCBSNC, and work to design and implement best practice programs for employees.
Since 2006 BCBSNC has focused on increasing awareness of health risk by implementing online HRA as well as onsite biometric screenings. In 2008 to 2011, focus shifted from raising awareness of health risks to taking action towards improvement. To earn a premium discount, employees were asked to participate in a health screening, HRA and one to three types of free wellness activities throughout the year. This model achieved an average yearly participation rate of 92%. The program advanced to an outcome based model in 2012. In addition to completing a screening and health assessment, employees were incented to maintain a BMI of 27.9 or lower or losing 5% of their body weight from the 2011 screenings.
Almost 30% of North Carolinians are obese, and just like the rest of our State; our employees had been putting on weight. This, combined with an increased weight over a six year screening program, led our team to go back to the drawing board. After our annual evaluation, we realized we could not continue the same program design and expect results. How could we move our population’s weight in the right direction, but keep it fun and inspiring? Our Wellness team, comprised of two dedicated Wellness employees, two communications specialists, and staff from onsite services including personal trainers, a nutritionist, health coach and EAP counselor, combined forces to create a program that would impact our employees in a big way.
The first WELCOA benchmark, Capturing CEO Support, was our first step: our CEO challenged us to lose 10,000 pounds in 2012 and again in 2013 at The 5 Ton Challenge was born. In concept, the challenge was simple and easy to produce: employees tracked their weight via a secure, internal website each month for the nine-month challenge. Along the way, they followed champions, the Weight Warriors, as they publically engaged in a weight management program.
The results: outstanding! After nine months, employees lost 11,301 pounds, exceeding the company goal by 10 percent. In addition, health screenings conducted at the end of the challenge revealed that the average Weight Warrior lost 16.8 pounds, saw a 5 point drop in total cholesterol, a 2.7 point drop in BMI, and lost an average of 5 inches from their waist line. In 2013, our employer sponsored health plan was able to stay stable, in part due to the improvement in health metrics from 2011 to 2012.
Over 46% of employees engaged in the 5 Ton Challenge between 2012 and 2013
Weight Warriors lost over 6% of their body weight over a two year period
Over two years, employees lost 19,618 pounds
The 5 Ton Challenge has since gained attention externally, with other employers in the state engaging in their own version of the challenge in 2013. With a state ranked at 33rd in overall health, programs such as the 5 Ton Challenge and Weight Warriors provide an opportunity for employers to engage employees in their health at a low cost.
For me, living a healthy lifestyle is something I love to do. In my free time I train for and run marathons, most notably completing the 2013 Boston Marathon and placing third in the 2014 Raleigh Rock n’ Roll Marathon. I also serve as a coach for Girls on the Run and implement a Desk to 5k program where I help BCBSNC employees train for and complete their first or best 5k. I help lead BCBSNC employees to live healthier lifestyles, and feel fortunate to be at company whose mission is improve the lives of our customers as well. I serve our employees by being at the forefront of Wellness trends and constantly pushing the boundaries of our programs through partnering with local universities to implement wellness studies, serving as the internship supervisor for Appalachian State Health Promotions majors, and working senior leadership to share our successes with other leaders.
Since implementing the outcomes based program in 2012, we have experienced net weight loss, decreased BMI by over 1 point, and have experienced flat medical premiums. This transition was not easy and required support from leadership across the organization, and continued wellness support through challenges such as 5 Ton.
It is not secret that Wellness is social, but we have created a best in class program by utilizing social media. It isn’t just about keeping success stories and communicating within your four walls – you need to spread the message within the community and where people are talking naturally to get the best impact. You can find BCBSNC on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn talking about Wellness. We started in 2012 with Weight Warriors and have kept going ever since. This is our way of showing that we walk the talk to achieving our mission of improving health.
Wellness needs to continue to create loyalty among consumers. We may not have the buying power of big tobacco, but using their marketing strategies will help keep our customers coming back for more. After all, it is hard to break a cycle of bad habits – so how can you make it painful to keep them? We know people live up to their expectations – so how can we make the bar higher and have faith in their desire to succeed? We can make the workplace healthy – but if the community that we live is unhealthy it will only go so far. As I continue to grow in my career, I hope to expand my reach beyond the walls of my organization and into NC communities as well. I hope to find programs, communications, and people that stick, to help the next generation of employees surpass the health of the current one.