ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Coletta Meyer

Living Well @ Washburn

I coordinate the Employee Wellness Program at Washburn University. Washburn University is a public institution with more than 6,900 students and 1,000 faculty and staff involved in more than 200 academic programs. My experience in health promotion and administration dates back to 2004 upon my return from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Professional Development

I received my Bachelor’s in Kinesiology in 2003 and my Master’s in Health Science in 2011 from Western Illinois University.  I earned my Personal Fitness Trainer Certification and Group Exercise Instructor Certification through AFAA in 2004. I became a Certified Lay Responder First Aid and CPR/AED Instructor through the ARC in 2009.  I have been a WELCOA member since 2007 and I obtained WELCOA Faculty in 2012. Even though my continuing education through WELCOA has elevated my knowledge and allowed me to grow, I feel that my Personal Fitness Training certification has provided my career with the most applicable skills.

Demonstrating Success

I implement an annual health assessment at no cost to the employee.  The health assessment includes completing a health screening (lipid panel, blood glucose, waist circumference, BMI, and body composition) and completion of a Health Risk Assessment provided by Wellsource Inc.  The goal of the health assessment is to provide individuals with an increased awareness regarding their health.  This last fiscal year, we experienced a 65% participation rate, or 604 Washburn University employees.  Since my arrival at Washburn University in January of 2013, the participation rate has steadily increased from 558 to our current number of 612 employees.  The most impressive aspect of this data is that these employees are voluntarily participating in the program.  We do offer a small monetary incentive, but we are currently not linked with health insurance and so the employees don’t feel forced into participating.  We are accomplishing “engagement” and not just “participation.”

We utilize an effective intervention that assesses overall wellness scores for participants.  Each year I assess the wellness score for the employees who started this program and continue to take part in it since 2006.   In 2006 we had only 18% in the excellent range, 60% in the doing well range, and 23% in the needs improving range.  Our overall wellness score for these participants has increased to 38% receiving excellent wellness scores, 54% receiving doing well wellness scores, and only 9% that have needs improving wellness scores.  This demonstrates that our employees are living healthier lives.  Our estimated ROI for the last two years since I have implemented the program is $553,632 if we use the 1.49:1 equation or $1.6 million if we use the 4.3:1 equation.

Our intervention is successful as demonstrated by improved voluntarily employee participation and progressively improved wellness scores.  Every year, I assess the participants BMI, Body Composition, Cholesterol, Glucose, Blood Pressure, exercise level, tobacco use, and their health risk status.  The trend for each of these measurements is moving in a positive health direction.

I contribute much of the program’s success to WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks implementation.  Furthermore, we have executive (CEO) support in forms of both economical support and voluntarily participation of the individual executive leaders.  I gather data from Wellsource Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield, and participant evaluations to determine which health topics to focus on when developing the wellness interventions, challenges, events, and presentations.  My data analysis dictated that we needed interventions on the following health concerns: Diabetes, Cholesterol, Weight Loss, and Work Stress.  The implementation of programming surrounding those topics illustrated that our intervention is appropriately customized in supporting healthy outcomes.


There are many ways that I “walk the talk” by living a healthy lifestyle.  I consistently serve as a role model for my coworkers and my family by staying active and making healthy choices.  When I came to Washburn University I requested a standing desk and I can be found exercising at my desk daily.  I believe that physical activity and exercise is extremely important to have good health.   I also practice relaxation weekly and developed a bi-monthly relaxation class for all employees to take part in. 

My experience as a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom helped me to take control of any situation.  It gave me the confidence to help others with their physical health and mental outlook.  I have also practiced as a Certified Personal Trainer for 11 years and find that nothing feels better than helping others feel better about themselves!

Advice: “Never give up on the people you are working with and never stop caring!”


I implement two healthy behavior tiers for employees to start and continue on a path to a healthier lifestyle.  Each tier action sheet is composed of 14 activities/behaviors. In recent years I have adapted the program to make sure that all wellness dimensions are covered on each action sheet.  For example, I added items on volunteering, donating, and relaxation so that the participant’s emotional and spiritual wellness are enhanced.  From individual to individual, I can promote an evolving culture change across Washburn University. 

Our results have been positive with 59% of employees completing tier 2 of “getting started,” and 53% completing tier 3 of “getting it done.”  Below are some measurable results for WU employee’s behaviors.

  • Physical Exams– 82%
  • Dental Exam – 88%
  • Annual Flu Immunization – 56%
  • Exercise 5 days/week or more - 27%
  • Less than 4 sick days – 77%
  • Choose low fat protein sources - 77%
  • Mental outlook positive – 81%

Compelling Vision

There are three threats that we will face in the next 5 years.  First, we face a large portion of employees overworked (performing 2 jobs due to cutbacks) and underpaid and this will eventually lead to job stress.  Second, with the advance of technology, our jobs are becoming less active. Lastly, we face obesity becoming the “norm” for many Americans.  These three issues will lead to increased medical costs, increased absenteeism, and decreased productivity. 


In the next three years, I will change the culture at Washburn University by implementing weekly relaxation sessions, stress relief challenges, and provide stress relief material for all employees. I plan to collaborate with others on campus to get exercise classes, such as Yoga and Tai Chi, visible on campus.   I will link our employee wellness program with our Health Insurance to ensure that all employees are completing a yearly health screening and health risk appraisal.  

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Comments 12

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Coletta does a wonderful job in her role. I have changed a number of my habits for the better based on her advice and I feel great at age 63. She's giving a great start into retirement.

Doug J. on 11/10/2014

Coletta is such an inspiration here at Washburn University! She is ALWAYS ready to help and it's obvious she truly cares about each of us and our well being. Coletta has great ideas on how to inspire, motivate and make getting and staying fit FUN! She offers suggestions for the mind, body and soul - the entire person, physically and mentally. Coletta is such a positive, driving force, thankfully she is with us!!!

Betty Lou P. on 11/10/2014

I like all the variety of participation activities she offers in our Wellness program. She is also so helpful and professional. She is a great asset here at WU!

Christina P. on 11/10/2014

Great example of an employee wellness program at a college and glad to see the emphasis that is placed on stress.

Daniel C. on 11/10/2014

Coletta always makes herself available! She has definitely helped me become a better version of myself.

Georgina T. on 11/10/2014

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