It is a gift to be given the opportunity to influence an individual’s health and wellbeing. I take the responsibility to manage the Health Matters Program very seriously. As the Health Matters Program Manager for the State of Idaho, Division of Professional-Technical Education, I designed and implemented the web-based wellness program for state employees seven years ago – and I haven’t stopped growing it! During those seven years as the Health Matters Program Manager I have provided wellness education outreach annually to over 18,000 State of Idaho employees via the Health Matters website, bi-monthly wellness e-newsletters, and the ChooseHealthMatters.com Blog.
I hold a Masters in Instructional & Performance Technology and a Bachelors in Social Work. I am a licensed Social Worker and a Certified Wellcoach through Wellcoaches of America. I am a proud WELCOA Faculty Member.
My passion for wellness started as a medical Social Worker. I also worked as an HR Manager and as an OD Specialist, helping state agencies create change through learning opportunities. I have a unique combination of skills…medical social work, adult learning, marketing, networking, and web-based performance technology. These skills, combined with my passion for wellness, led me to create the Health Matters Program.
Health Matters is making a vital contribution to State of Idaho employee health and wellness. The website, e-newsletters, and blog bring employee wellness to life and motivate employees to get involved in their health. The emphasis of the website changes monthly; topics are relevant and fresh. Emphasis is on lifestyle choices, chronic disease prevention, medical self-care, nutrition, stress reduction, tobacco cessation, credible health resources, success stories, worksite resources, and local opportunities that link employees with their community resources.
The impact of the Health Matters program is seen in the numbers. Average annual website hits have risen from 247,871 in 2008 to 2,612,944 in 2014. Average monthly unique visitors has also risen from 5,065 in 2008 to 8,168 in 2014.
The twice monthly Health Matters e-newsletters, which I design with colorful graphics and a twist of humor, motivate employees to get involved in their health. I promote personal responsibility, encouraging employees to build on their success and take the next step toward better health. Having the newsletter publish twice monthly, keeps the wellness message visible. The ChooseHealthMatters.com blog provides yet another way for employees to interact with wellness.
There has been a recent shift in culture among state agencies. Management and employees are more interested in the wellbeing of the whole person at work. Wellness was recently integrated into the State of Idaho employee benefit plan through a program called ThriveIdaho which incentivizes healthy employee behaviors.
WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks provided valuable guideposts for the Health Matters Program.
Capturing senior level support requires ongoing communication and data sharing. I crafted a program Mission in 2008 and continue to evaluate it, meeting with key players at various levels of government.
I created cohesive wellness teams by establishing a Wellness Contact in participating agencies statewide. Those agency “champions of wellness” are central to the success of Health Matters. I communicate with them twice monthly and serve as a consultant to those who want to launch a new worksite program.
Collecting data to drive health efforts is critical to program success. I have collected website data on monthly web hits, unique web users, pages most frequently viewed, and documents frequently downloaded. I review data monthly, adjusting web content accordingly.
I crafted an operating plan for wellness in 2007 and continue to hone that plan which provides direction and prioritization of my projects.
I know my audience. Workplace demographics have helped me choose appropriate interventions (fitness challenges, clinics, lunch and learns). For example, with an average age demographic of 46, program emphasis is concentrated more on chronic disease than on young families.
Creating a supportive environment was accomplished through ongoing monthly communication with agency Wellness Contacts, surveying their needs, providing individual consultation, and maintaining a visible presence through the website, e-newsletters, and the blog.
Wellness is a huge field with many opportunities. Setting goals, focusing efforts, and consistently evaluating outcomes makes a good program better. I have strategically evaluated which interventions have the largest impact on employee participation while garnering the support of upper management.
I created a sustainable wellness program from the ground up, jumping in with a can-do attitude. I modeled strategies that can be replicated by organizations including utilizing networks of local providers and creating an employee-focused program. Health Matters is about employees – caring for them and connecting them with local resources:
Armed with resources, I provide wellness consultation to outside organizations on how to begin to build a wellness program.
I participate in over 20 community/statewide wellness committees and I search for local resources our state employees can use.
Resources that helped me achieve leadership status include my education, healthcare background, WELCOA faculty status, Wellcoaches certification, humor, and my passion for wellness. Most days you will see me wearing my pedometer with water and veggies in hand, modeling healthy habits!
In creating the Health Matters Program, my goal was to give employees a customized Idaho-based wellness program versus a “big box” wellness program. I wanted the program to provide relevant, credible, focused health information. A large part of the success of Health Matters is it meets the need of the employee; it breaks health topics down into accessible chunks and makes resources personal by connecting employees to their local providers.
I took a three-prong approach:
In a time of “big box” is better, this three-pronged Idaho-based program has made it easier for employees to own their health and wellness journey. The website data proves the interest.
My vision for workplace health promotion is that it is a standard, funded piece of every industry’s business plan. Wellness is woven into meetings, new projects, and ongoing activities and it is supported by the organization’s mission/vision. It is how we do business.
Challenges to this vision over the next five years include limited budgets, an aging population, helping management focus their wellness vision, establishing a stronger workplace health promotion focus in the Affordable Care Act, matching appropriate wellness programs to different business cultures, establishing intrinsic motivation for behavior change, and always being ready to move the needle to the next big thing.
Over the next five years, my program emphasis will shift to managing chronic disease in the workplace, increasing group wellness coaching opportunities, and bringing the family into the wellness vision….all of this without losing sight of the importance of the individual employee.