ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Emily Light

Who Knew There Was Such a Thing Called Worksite Wellness?

In 2006, Price Chopper/Golub Corporation established a corporate goal of improving employee health and began an employee wellness program named and branded “Well@Work”. The company noticed results from various surveys that indicated employees wanted a wellness program and they wanted the company to care more about their health. Price Chopper is a regional grocery store chain that operates 134 stores (and growing) in 6 states in the Northeast. The company employs 22,000 teammates and offers a comprehensive benefit solution to the full-time and part-time populations. Price Chopper reached out to MVP Health Care to help them develop and implement an employee worksite wellness program. MVP Health Care, a long time administrator for Price Chopper’s self-insured health plan, was pleased to combine forces with the company to customize a program tailored to their organization’s unique needs. Over time, the wellness program, Well@Work, has evolved as a key component and driver in the company’s overall population health management strategy. As Manager of the Price Chopper Wellness Program, Emily Light has led the charge since 2007. She is responsible for overseeing the program and its staff, as well developing, implementing, marketing and evaluating wellness initiatives throughout the organization. Since she began working with the Price Chopper Wellness Program in 2007 she and her team have: implemented and executed various major health initiatives; influenced organizational policies so they are more consistent with those of a “well workplace”; documented numerous successes (including ROI measurement) and barriers; positively influenced the culture within the organization; applied for and achieved multiple wellness program awards; and expanded the program population size from 1,800 employees (a pilot population at Price Chopper’s corporate headquarters) to a total of 22,000 employees.

Emily graduated from Brandeis University with a major in Biology and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health (concentrating in Health Policy and Management) from the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany School of Public Health. While working with the Well@Work program, Emily has attained certifications including Wellcert Level 4 (Certified Worksite Wellness Program Consultant) and been established as a WELCOA Faculty Member. She has spoken at various local and national conferences and is currently working on a return on investment study for publication. She is consistently striving for excellence in all that she does while continuously trying to grow both personally and professionally. She is proud to use her background, education and experience to impact the health and wellness of the overall Price Chopper employee population and is excited to see future directions the program will take!

Emily Light, MPH


Who knew there was such a thing called worksite wellness? I knew I wanted to work in health care because it mattered to me but I didn’t know about worksite wellness until graduate school. I have a MPH and engage and speak at industry webinars/conferences.  I am Wellcert Level 4 certified (most valuable to me) and have WELCOA Faculty Member status. I was inducted into the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. I have attained various awards for my wellness program including: AHA Fit-Friendly, Vermont Governor’s Council and Central NY Healthy Workplace. The program was included in NCQA's Quality Profiles.


While I have implemented many successful health interventions, the 2010 “Challenge Yourself to Better Health” was most impactful. It was an 8-week competition between 2,043 individual participants to improve overall health. The Challenge included two tracks: weight loss and wellness points. Participants could choose one or both tracks based on their health goals. The prizes in the weight loss track were based on % weight loss. The prizes in the wellness point track were based on total number of points earned by meeting recommended guidelines around nutrition, physical activity, tobacco use, weight management, sleep habits, stress management and preventive health care. Outcomes included:

  • Most participants (77%) said the Challenge helped them achieve their health goals.
  • Overall, 4,214 lbs lost (average 2.6 lbs/person)
  • “Biggest Loser” had 20.6% weight loss.
  • 148,569 wellness points earned
  • Winner earned 803 points (out of possible 804)
  • More participants (32%) reported having very good/excellent health after the program compared to 21% before.
  • Only 17% said they were up to date with preventive recommendations before the challenge. During the program, 28% had a mammogram, 26% had routine physical exam, 25% had a tetanus booster, 13% had a colonoscopy, and 14% had a pap /pelvic exam.
  • There was a 7% decrease in participant smoking rates.
  • 55% of participants stated they exercised at least 3-4 times a week after the Challenge compared to 32% before.
  • 54% participants consumed high-fiber foods at least 1x/day after the challenge compared to 35% before.
  • 10% participants consumed high-fat foods at least 1x/day after the challenge compared to 18% before.
  • 83% of participants were either satisfied/very satisfied with the Challenge.
  • Participants noted organizational culture improvements and felt that that Price Chopper was 46% more committed to the health/wellness of its workers than before the program.

An Extended Challenge was also offered (additional 6 month intervention) to support and reward participants committed to making long-lasting behavior changes. A total of 123 participants in the Extended Challenge saw even more significant results (i.e. overall 5.85% weight loss, overall weight loss track winner lost 30.9%, wellness point track winner earned 2,191 points).

WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks have been critical to our overall program success. We strive to make sure each intervention (as well as our overall program strategy) considers each benchmark during our planning phases. There is an Executive Assistant on our Wellness Committee who aims to engage CEO support in individual programs. Wellness staff works with HR leadership to promote and garner more executive support. Each program also has a detailed operating plan which is then incorporated into our annual work plan. We carefully evaluate outcomes and use data to choose appropriate interventions. We consistently strive to incorporate supportive environment policy proposals and prizes (i.e. massage chair, stretching resources, etc) into each intervention and our overall program plan. Thank you, WELCOA, for giving us an easy strategic guide like the 7 benchmarks to use for our program!


I strive for excellence in all that I do, including my role in the Health Promotion industry. My background, education and experience have prepared me to be a leader in the field. I regularly engage in/speak at conferences and panel discussions, stay abreast of industry best practices and seek/attain wellness awards for my program initiatives. I always walk the talk, which is the most important characteristic of a leader. I set a great example for my staff, program participants, family and peers. I work full time, balance work with my wonderful home life (I’m married with 2 young children) and squeeze in time for personal wellness. My secret is BALANCE—not just maintaining it, but acknowledging when it’s off, and doing what it takes to get it back. Words of advice for other potential leaders in the field: “Walk the talk. Maintain personal balance. Never give up because wellness programs require time and continued effort before true impacts are noticeable.”


Industry advancements happen when people innovate, evaluate and share results. Two examples are:

1. I devised the "Go for the Gold" program to provide individualized support/resources for employees who are ready to make a significant behavior change. This 1-year program teaches participants how to set, achieve and maintain wellness goals. Results from over 500 participants include:

  • Average weight loss of 11 lbs/participant.
  • 8.1% increase in overall health perception.
  • All participants reported the program helped them achieve their health goals.
  • Annual survey results indicate an improvement in organizational culture.

2. I am involved in a ROI study (retrospective, non-experimental, risk-matched) that looks at medical claims savings of a matched cohort of wellness program participants vs. non-participants. Results are preliminary but we found clear improvements in health risk and cost savings. It is vital to add to the body of peer-reviewed literature which advances our field over time.


Over the next 5 years, the ACA and skyrocketing healthcare costs will continue to force businesses to spend every penny as wisely as possible. Preventive care and wellness are primary strategies to do so. However, businesses are requiring more hard dollar justifications. Wellness programs are still often thought of as something that can easily be cut from the bottom line. It is imperative to grow the body of wellness ROI literature. It will be important to categorize these studies by the types of interventions, general baseline population health status, participation rates and organizational culture (all primary influencers of worksite wellness). The literature needs to be more prescriptive: if your employee population health and culture are X, implement X with X participation rate and your ROI will = X.  My goal for the next 5 years will be to add to this body of literature in a transparent and repeatable way.

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Emily Light, MPH Well@Work Workforce Challenge 2014 Participants Well@Work Step Up to the Challenge Participants Wearing Pedometers Wellness Committee Member Hike Well@Work Softball League Champions
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Emily L.
Emily Light, MPH joined MVP Health Care in 2007 and is currently the Manager of Strategic Clinical Account Management. She oversees wellness program efforts for strategic accounts including Price Chopper/Golub Corporation, City of Rochester and MVP Service Corp. Emily graduated from Brandeis University with a major in Biology and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health (concentrating in Health Policy and Management) from the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany School of Public Health. She is proud to use her background and education to impact the health and wellness among target populations! View Emily L.'s Profile.
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