Renee serves as Wellness Practice Leader for HiRe Benefits @ The LaRocco Companies, an employee benefits brokerage & consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Renee has seventeen years' experience in the employee benefits field, with seven in wellness specifically. The LaRocco Companies consist of 30 employees and serve a client base of employer groups with 10 to 8,500 employees. Prior to filling this role, there was no subject matter expert available to guide client health and productivity management efforts.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Agnes Scott College, which encourages graduates to engage in the social challenges of their time. I believe that I have an opportunity to impact the ever-increasing levels of health risks and disease brought on by the prevalent American lifestyle. In 2008, I began to educate myself with industry resources. I attended numerous annual conferences and summits, most notably the WELCOA national training summits and the American Journal of Health Promotion conferences. In 2011, the internal wellness program I designed, implemented, and managed earned our firm the WELCOA Well Workplace designation. I received several certifications from WELCOA, culminating this year in a Faculty designation. I am currently on track to graduate with honors in 2015, with a Masters of Science in Health Promotion Management. While those credentials will obviously be beneficial, it is the WELCOA Faculty designation that is my most significant certification to date, because it represents the body of health promotion knowledge I have gained.
My role as wellness practice leader for an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm is to guide and direct our firm’s support of our clients’ wellness efforts. By bringing wellness to the table, I have been able to educate many brokers and consultants about the significance of health promotion and corporate wellness initiatives in addressing the health and productivity of the workforce. Our ability to tie these efforts to impact on the bottom line has increased C-suite support and increased program offerings. Rather than impacting one group, the knowledge I have gained has been disseminated across our firm and applied to employer groups across the country. Training and credentials have brought the ear and respect of others. When a client presents an issue pertaining to wellness, I’m the “go to” subject matter expert. With the resources provided by WELCOA, I am prepared to answer the call.
Several clients have demonstrated specific success with their wellness efforts. One credit union with 300 employees has impacted nutrition by eliminating the old, unhealthy break room and completely restructuring it to offer nutritious lunch and snack items provided by a healthy vendor. They are currently structuring an onsite fitness center. One technology and engineering client of 8,500 lives has gone from offering ad hoc programming by location to creating one centralized platform for 2015/16, realizing true progress will be dictated by a cohesive effort driven from the top down. I believe these groups have been successful because we built a path for them based on the WELCOA benchmarks. Experience has shown that there are no short cuts. Worksite wellness initiatives that drive health improvements, organizational excellence, and financial results require a comprehensive, systematic application of a framework. The seven WELCOA benchmarks have provided just that for our organization and for our clients.
Having the title doesn’t necessarily make one a leader. Leaders gain influence by building a vision, communicating well with others, and pursuing best practices in fulfilling that vision. I believe by pursuing additional knowledge and building key relationships, I will remain at the forefront of the health promotion field. Whether by reading the latest literature, attending conferences, or furthering academic studies, relevant leaders never stop devouring information. The literature, case studies, expert interviews, and trainings provided by WELCOA have been and will continue to be a tremendous part of my success in leading others to a successful health promotion paradigm.
Overcoming my own significant health issues has been fundamental to my wellness practice. Health promotion is not a field in which success comes to those who do not live it. I would encourage others to start from within, and align themselves with a holistic view of well-being first. I believe this authenticity is as necessary as gaining practical knowledge when building one’s platform as a wellness thought leader.
I believe innovation is demonstrated in our internal wellness program by the scope of holistic areas included. Rather than focusing on the standard nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, and stress management components, our wellness efforts also address creative and intellectual pursuits, job satisfaction and work/life balance, and volunteerism/community involvement.
While addressing biomedical risk factors will always be central to wellness programs, I believe the most relevant, effective programs today take a wider view of well-being. Our team has enjoyed applying creative pursuits to our client projects, through use of manipulative puzzles, smart phone Apps, and word games. The creativity born of our wellness effort has been carried over to our projects, increasing work satisfaction and results!
My life experience is culminating into a passionate story for the advancement of health promotion. Overcoming chronic pain and depression is an achievement I can look on with pride, not within the confines of an old, outdated stigma. It gives me the insight and the passion for building programs that work. Learning to address my own health-related issues while encouraging others has brought a synergy to my life and a focus to my direction.
I believe we have a tremendous opportunity over the next five years to quantify health promotion’s impact on personal health and organizational excellence. The progression from unhealthy behaviors to health risks to illness and disease is now well documented. However, the health promotion industry is still fairly young, and the science of how best to address this progression is still developing. The Krumholz / American Heart Association study out this year indicates that we have begun to reverse the epidemic of cardiovascular disease and death in the United States. Positive health behaviors have been cited as a factor in the “jaw-dropping” results. Such studies will confirm that health promotion is not simply an added expense but is an investment in the workforce. Advancing this knowledge, with cold, hard facts and numbers born of scientific research, will be the focus of my work. Economic realities dictate that corporate leaders must demonstrate return on investment, and today many of our clients still struggle to demonstrate meaningful ROI. I believe the industry is maturing, and the data is forthcoming that will help us quantify the wide-ranging, value-added impact of health promotion efforts. I’m excited to be involved at this stage of development in the health promotion industry.