ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Pam Harb

"D" Cups

• Pam Harb
• Dart Container Company
• Corporate Wellness Manager
• Manufacturing
• 16 years in the field
• 15,000 employees; 10,000 US and 5,000 International

Professional Development

I received my Master of Arts degree in Human Services/Exercise Science, and wrote a thesis entitled, “Worksite Wellness Programs ---Worth Investing In”.  Little did I know that would be my chosen path for the next 16 years.  My certifications include the WELCOA faculty status, personal training, group exercise and nutrition specialist. I have received awards for various programs such as the Healthy Ohio Gold Award for large corporations.

The reason I am in the health promotion field is because I know first-hand how a habit of exercise and good nutrition and belief in yourself can work to your advantage when you really need it. I was involved in a car/bike accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Questioning why I survived, I was told it was because of my strong will to live and the fact that I was in such good physical shape. My body fought for me even when I didn’t know what was going on. After 2 years of rehab, I knew I had to find a way to help others help themselves BEFORE they needed it for survival.  Working in the worksite wellness field, I can help other people take care of themselves so they could withstand any unfortunate incident, illness, disease or medical condition that may come their way.     

The WELCOA training programs have proven most valuable as they offer real life solutions in the wellness field.                      

Demonstrated Success

One of my most successful programs deals with physical inactivity. Employees were not walking because there was no safe place to walk at work. Our team found a place, built a paved path and implemented a walking program right after it was built. Since the path was lighted, all employees from all shifts were able to take advantage of the track.

Culture Change & Behavior Change:

  • Name: Track A Lap
  • Intervention:  Obesity/Wgt. Mgt. /Physical Activity 
  • # of Participants: 172 or 47%                            

Employees who never walked before participated. Employees who didn’t think walking would do anything for them lost weight. More importantly, it became a habit for them to walk before or after their shift and they came in early to walk!

Health improvement: Many employees lost weight without really trying.

Seven Benchmarks

  1. Tobacco free campus initiative would not have gotten off the ground without 100% CEO support. Message about employee health came from top management.
  2. Building wellness teams: Always try to involve employees from all shifts, all departments, all management levels to get real pulse of the population
  3. Routinely do health risk assessments to get baseline data and compare year to year results and set goals for improvement. Example:

Goal: Reduce health risk factors to reduce health care costs, increase productivity and presenteeism and reduce absenteeism. Reduction of one risk factor/ee/year = potential cost savings of $1249/ee

Three year health risk assessment reduction in risk factors- summary of results:

Participation levels/results of risk factors

Year 1 (52% participation) # of Risk Factors:

  • None- 9%
  • One- 12%
  • Two to three- 39%
  • Four to five- 28%
  • Six or more- 12%

Year 2 (45% participation) # of Risk Factors:

  • None- 13%
  • One- 20%
  • Two to three- 47%
  • Four to five- 16%
  • Six or more- 5%

Year 3 (49% participation) # of Risk Factors:

  • None- 12%
  • One- 17.4%
  • Two to three- 48.6%
  • Four to five- 18.3%
  • Six or more- 3.7%
  1. Plan in advance, develop annual calendar. This keeps you on track and allows for sufficient time in, marketing the programs that are coming up.
  2. Review HRA aggregate report to see what the population needs and what it can benefit from. Example: no need to run a program for pregnant women if your employee base is 75% male
  3. Changing the environment is tricky sometimes. Encounter resistance to change- case in point changing the healthy to non- healthy ratio in vending machines. Adding walking paths, fitness centers and healthy dining facilities
  4. Address the top 3 health concerns. Try a variety of things. If something doesn’t work- try something else. Find out what works for your population. Keep track of your programs so you can measure change. Example:


One year, fitness evaluation summary of results: 

  • 18% lowered their blood pressure
  • 18% lowered their cholesterol levels
  • 23% decreased body fat percentage
  • 7% increased abdominal strength
  • 20% improved their flexibility
  • 14% improved cardiovascular fitness level


I swim four to five mornings a week and have for the past 5 years. I find it’s the best time to do something for myself first thing in the morning before the demands of the day are placed on my shoulders. I play golf 2-3 times a week in the summer.  In the winter, I concentrate on weight training. I also walk my dog daily and practice stretching, visualization and meditation. This past summer, we  joined a CSA ( community supported agriculture) group and had fresh veggies delivered to the office once a week from a farm that is less than 1 mile away from the plant. I bring my own lunch most days and enjoy having people ask me about what I am eating. I especially like when I bring a fruit or veggie that no one has tried, and let them have a bite.

I find using the WELCOA resources most helpful. I also provide a list of reliable websites for health information that I feel comfortable referring to my employees.

As advice, I would suggest that one have a deliberate approach to leadership, and be someone who influences change and behaviors with actions and not just words. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors. So be a leader of sustainable change that leads to ingrained behavior, and not just at work. Develop real concepts that your employees can put into practice at home, at work, with their families and into their communities.  Make it real instead of ideal.  And try to get your employees to believe that they can do something for themselves and their families.


I don’t know that I have come up with an innovative solution that has changed the wellness industry.  What I do know is that you have to keep re-inventing yourself and your programs.  Here are some things that I have tried recently:

  • Change and offer different programs on a regular basis. Early in my career, I only offered one program at a time and expected everyone to participate. Now, I offer more than one program at a time, to try to appeal to a larger audience.
  • I approached my senior leadership team after an analysis of the lunchtime habits of our employees. Most were going off campus to purchase fast food from the local town. Hardly anyone was using their break to work out or exercise. A few were walking at lunch. I proposed that we build an onsite dining center and fitness facility. The project was approved and we are building both right now.
  • We are implementing a pilot program with stand up desks. We purchased 24 desk top models that sit right on the employee’s current desk.  Employees use the desk for one month, evaluate their use and the product, and then report back to me whether they have felt better, been more productive, and have more energy. This program is in progress right now, so no formal results or recommendations have been made. However, preliminary results look very favorable.
  • The other “innovative” change we made was to bring the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) under the wellness umbrella. As many of the components ( psychological, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, intellectual and physical) addressed are the same, we felt we could offer a stronger,  closer tie to both programs with additional resources for education and betterment of the employees. At our new hire orientation sessions, I present both the wellness program and the EAP program and show them how they are integrated.

Compelling Vision

The biggest threat I see to the health promotion industry is the return of the idea that companies may cut funding for wellness related programs. Proving return on investment is tough since most of our efforts and results are intrinsic. You can’t put a price on how better someone feels, and without hard dollar results, programs risk being cut.  I’d like to see all companies tie wellness programs and incentives right into their overall benefit plans, like putting in requirements that an employee must meet before they are eligible to go on the company benefit plan.  I’d like tobacco users to pay more and I’d like to see the healthiest employees pay less. 

As I look back on my diverse career, I feel my greatest achievements are helping other people achieve their own goals and I’d like the opportunity to continue on that path.  I understand and believe wellness works and it’s a great investment for any company to make.  I think that there is a real need and opportunity for us to continue research, share results and pool resources to make it easier for all companies, large and small, to offer wellness programs to all employees.

We need more change agents who are able to drive the wellness strategy forward to convert knowledge and self awareness into improved lifestyle behaviors of all employees and their family members. We need to treat wellness programs like a business within a business.  Some opportunities are:

  1. Understand the employees, including demographics, lifestyle, what their health challenges are, and how to best communicate
  2. Identify objectives that address the health needs of the employees that offer the opportunity to reduce health care costs and improve productivity.
  3. Develop strategies that align with employee needs and preferences that fit into the wellness culture we want to create
  4. Communicate with and engage employees for the long haul, thinking beyond programs into real behavior changes
  5. Align the program outcomes with business metrics to demonstrate how the wellness program has affected the bottom line
  6.  Share the results with the leadership team
  7. Use industry best practices as a guide for continuous improvement
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I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting and working with Pam. Until she came to the company that I work for nobody seemed to care about our health and well being. She created a structured program that made wellness fun. Several employees were unaware that they had health issues. With Pam's help and guidance those employees have improved their health and extended their lives. Once the importance of watching your diet and taking time to exercise are really explained to you, it is impossible to not make it a part of your daily routine. We are very blessed to have had Pam in our lives. We need to never forget to Bee Healty, Wealthy, and Wise!

NANCY B. on 11/11/2014

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