ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Danielle Arnett

Wellness for Every Body

Working long hours in a physically and emotionally demanding field creates a perfect storm for tired, stressed, and physically unwell workers and that is where Hocking Valley Community Hospital (HVCH) employees were finding themselves. In 2007, Danielle Arnett came back to her hometown and accepted the first Wellness Coordinator ever created at HVCH. Danielle came with a background in exercise physiology and counseling and, most importantly, a mission to change the culture. Her goal was to create an environment supportive of healthy lifestyle choices through policy changes, accessible and effective tools, and most importantly by building trusting relationships.

Finished a community 5k with two of my three boys!

1. Professional Development

I completed a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Physiology from Ohio University in 2002, earning Outstanding Senior Award in my college and receiving Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach status through the NSCA.  Immediately upon graduation, I accepted a position in Employee Wellness and quickly discovered that wellness encompassed much more than physical health.  Eager to learn more about helping people, I pursued a Master's degree in Counseling Education.  While experience and professional development are the best teachers, I am also thankful for my Bachelor's and Master's degrees.  In combination, they have prepared me to work with people on many levels.

2. Demonstrated Success

The primary health and wellness concerns that we at Hocking Valley Community Hospital faced were risks associated with Metabolic Syndrome and high levels of stress.  Immediately, the Healthy Lifestyle Committee was formed and we began look at strategies to effectively address these concerns.  We took a few initial steps before implementing these strategies, one of which included becoming a member of WELCOA.  After becoming educated on WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks, we better understood the importance of capturing CEO support and it has proved the single best step we have taken.  We then crafted an operating plan which included our strategy for appropriate interventions.  We started with implementation of an annual employee wellness profile (health risk assessment).  Each year, all employees complete requirements which ensure patient and worker safety, review protocol, and ultimately maintain the integrity of our hospital.  Our senior leadership team agreed that adding a wellness profile to these annual requirements would help us assess our population needs, evaluate our progress, and bring awareness of personal health to our employees.  We didn’t want to stop here though. Our employees work long hours, many in physically demanding and emotionally exhausting circumstances, and we wanted to make sure we were doing everything in our power to provide a place that made healthy choices easier choices.  We wanted to expand our focus from “treatment” of disease to prevention first and began this process by changing the menu and improving vending machine contents in the cafeteria, offering individual health coaching, holding an annual wellness fair providing free lab work and other screenings, and creating challenges and campaigns that promote employee engagement and team work.  After several years of building trust through these services, we began to see a shift in the culture.  Wellness became a normal part of conversation at HVCH and we began to see positive changes in employee lab work, participation in fitness classes, and improved scoring in stress management.  To reward our employees for improving health and encourage their continued behaviors, HVCH decided to offer discounts on health insurance deductibles for meeting biometric screening criteria.  And, for those who do not meet the criteria for the discounts but are working diligently to make changes, we offer health coaching among many other services to receive discounts and have seen many positive changes through these alternatives.

After seven years we have 60% participation in our annual wellness fair screenings, 85% participation in lab work, more physical activity is reported annually, and we have seen small, but significant decreases in all factors related to metabolic syndrome according to our annual wellness profile.

3. Leadership

I have a passion for wellness and work hard to walk the talk.  Personal examples include exercising 5+ days per week, maintaining work life balance, eating healthy and in moderation, and maintaining spiritual health by making choices that bring true peace and joy. I am continually pursuing financial health and environmental safety.

Resources for achieving leadership status in my field:

 Professional development (WELCOA, continuing education in my field through conferences, home study, and networking.
Community involvement through activities such as School Health Council, Chamber of Commerce, speaking for local groups, etc.
Working with other professionals outside of my local community (member of the Ohio Hospital Association)

Advice for those hoping to become leaders in health promotion:

Network with health promotion professionals
Stay up to date on best practices
Become a member of WELCOA
Get to know your people, build relationships
Don’t give up.    

4. Innovation

For many years we offered a weight loss challenge January through March and saw significant weight loss but also a large number of repeat participants.  Two years ago I decreased incentives and added a “maintenance” program to follow with larger incentives and more education.  We have seen approximately one third of our participants maintain weight loss.    
In 2012, we began offering “wellness partnerships” including services such as a wellness profile, employee lab work, annual wellness fair, and education.  Our partners include our local school district (450 employees) and county (320 employees) who have signed contracts for a third year.
HVCH also has a vision for healthy youth.  Four years ago we offered a 3-day camp for children, “Whole Fit”, focusing on physical activity, nutrition, and self-esteem.  lt has been so successful in our community; our school district invited us to offer Whole Fit in four elementary schools.

5. Compelling Vision

I think the biggest threats the industry faces over the next 5 years are 1) uncertainty of healthcare (i.e. support for prevention vs. treatment) and 2) continually changing rules surrounding incentives.  Due to increased awareness of health promotion practices, newly emerging case studies can be overwhelming but ultimately helps us determine best practices.  In my community, I have been communicating with family doctors via surveys and focus groups to determine how we can work together to promote health and prevent disease.  Currently we are forming a "risk reduction" model to improve overall health of our community.    

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Finished a community 5k with two of my three boys!
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Comments 4

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Congrats on all your hard work and vision. Your town is blessed to have you as part of their community!

Pam B. on 1/21/2015

It is great to see health care organizations embracing wellness.

Daniel C. on 11/10/2014

Thanks to Danielle's great leadership and her dedication to our hospital, we have one of the best wellness programs in our area. Thank you Danielle!

Brian S. on 10/22/2014

Great vision for a great community. Thank you for your hard word and dedication to our future!

Tabetha C. on 10/19/2014

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