Kris works daily to improve the work/life balance of nearly 4,000 health system employees. Since taking the role of wellness coordinator for Freeman Health System in 2002, she has developed a wide array of programs to empower Freeman employees to reach their personal goals.
Her genuine interest in each person she comes into contact with and her natural warmth has earned the respect and affection of both patients and her peers. Earning a President's Signature award and an Excellence in Nursing Award prove the high esteem others have for her knowledge and leadership.
In addition to providing wellness offerings for Freeman employees she also consults with area corporations and assists them in planning and implementing their own wellness programs.
Kris graduated from Missouri Southern State College in 1983 with a degree in nursing. Starting her career at Freeman in 1981 as a student assistant in pediatrics, she then joined DaySurg, the outpatient surgery department. In 1996 she joined Post-Anesthesia and Patient Processing, serving as a charge nurse until 2006 when she became the full time wellness coordinator.
She completed the Health Promotion Director Workshop at The Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas in 2003 as well as the Coaching Healthy Behaviors Workshop in 2007. She is a member of the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) recently receiving WELCOA faculty status and serves on the Jasper Newton County Community Health Collaborative – LiveSmart.
In 2008 she served as faculty in a Tips from a Model Wellness Program Discussion at the Ryan National Conference. In 2010 and 2011 under her leadership, Freeman was recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA) as a Gold Level Fit Friendly Company for meeting criteria for making employee health and wellness a priority. Then in 2012 and 2013, Freeman was recognized as a Platinum Level Fit Friendly company. Freeman was also recognized by the AHA with the Community Innovation Award in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Freeman received WELCOA’s Well Workplace Gold Award in 2011 in recognition of outstanding achievement in health promotion.
WellBalance, our financial incentive program that began in 2006, has had the most impact on the health of our employees, resulting in reduction of their health risk factors. Freeman Strides, our physical activity tracking program that has been in place since 2004, has played a vital role in the success of WellBalance and reduction of health risk factors as well.
In 2013, 40% of Freeman employees who took the health assessment reported exercising three or more times a week. This was a 13% increase from the previous year of 27%. In April 2014, we saw a significant increase in participation in our annual Freeman Family 5K and One Mile Fun Run, with more than 600 participants compared to 260 the previous year.
The demonstrated success of our WellBalance program is a result of a cohesive wellness team consisting of representatives from behavioral health, education, human resources, nutrition services, sports medicine etc. I am blessed to work with such a motivated group of individuals who truly care about the health and well-being of our employees.
In January 2014, we created a wellness champions program with 32 individuals representing Freeman Health System. I believe that developing a culture of wellness system-wide was a major factor in the increase in participation in our 5K and other WellBalance offerings throughout the year.
Because I lost 50 pounds in 1999 and adopted a healthy lifestyle, I believe employees can relate to me because they know I traveled my own wellness journey. I am actively involved in physical fitness adventures and belong to a running club. Most recently, I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim with seven other women from Freeman, one being our Chief Human Resources Officer. I like to believe I am a cheerleader to many – I help coworkers and others see, by my example, that they can achieve their own personal wellness goals one step at a time.”
My background as a registered nurse has played a vital role in understanding the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles to prevent chronic disease.
By attending the Health Promotion Director’s Workshop at The Cooper Institute in 2003 and the Coaching Healthy Behaviors Workshop in 2007, I gained valuable education and knowledge of what it takes to create and maintain a successful workplace wellness program. But WELCOA’s Seven Benchmarks are the basis of our wellness program and continue to drive our efforts.
Because our employees participate in a number of wellness activities not all sponsored by Freeman, we allow them to create their own wellness events and receive credit for them – this helps employees meet the annual wellness point requirement (10 points must be accumulated each year) needed to maintain health insurance savings.
In 2012, we began offering our employees, and the community as well, four early detection screenings – peripheral arterial disease screening, carotid artery/stroke screening, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and osteoporosis screening – for only $100. A number of individuals who took advantage of this program found they were at risk for health issues. Because of the early detection screenings, participants with abnormal results – some of which could have been serious or caused death – were able to follow up with their primary care physicians to take the steps necessary to correct the issues and, in some cases, save their lives.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) was the primary lifestyle condition by paid amount in 2012. In 2013, the savings in lifestyle conditions by amount paid showed: 1) the group prevalence trend for CAD decreased to -10.4%, from 6%; and 2) a $200,000 reduction in paid CAD claims.
I believe the biggest threat in the health promotion industry, as well as the biggest opportunity to make changes, involves the increase in childhood obesity and the health conditions children are experiencing today that prior generations of children didn’t face, such as type 2 diabetes, etc.
I believe the future of health promotion lies in developing a culture of wellness in the workplace. To achieve success, individuals need to have the resources on hand and a feeling of support from their co-workers and managers. We also need to be sure that we help employees understand that their health should be the key to motivate them to participate in wellness initiatives. We want them to participate for their own health and well-being, not just to gain savings or receive an incentive."
Following the seven benchmarks developed by WELCOA including beginning with senior leadership support and a cohesive wellness team are vital to the future of our wellness program.