ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Carly Kennedy

Wellness, not just a job but a lifestyle

I have been in the Health Education and Health Promotion field for 9 years. I currently am a Wellness & Health Management Specialist at Lawley Insurance, which is a Top 100 National Insurance Broker specializing in Employee Benefits, Property and Casualty and Risk Management. Lawley has over 300 employees with Headquarters in Buffalo, New York and branches in Western New York, Downstate New York and New Jersey. Our wellness program was launched in 2009 and has continued to progress ever since. The wellness program was launched a the Buffalo location, and was ran by two individuals. Since then we have captured Senior Leader and our Principals' support and have progressed into a wellness and health management program through all company locations. We have a wellness committee that is led by an executive committee of our three designated wellness professionals and our Employee Relations Manager, and committee members from each branch location. Our program is branded with a program name (Lawley Strong) a logo and mascot. Our program has evolved to become outcomes-based and we have 75% engagement.

I have a B.S in Health Science and I have a M.S.  in Health Education.  I am a member of Eta Sigma Gamma, the National Health Education Honorary and AAHPERD. Certifications include: New York State Teaching Certification for Health Ed k-12, Health Promotion Coordinator (BWI Health Promotions), WELCOA, Certified Wellness Program Coordinator and Program Manager (Chapman Institute) and CHES. In Graduate School I was chosen to present a poster for NCATE ; in June 2014 I was awarded the Customer Service Award that is given to one employee each quarter.
In High School, I took Health Ed and it was one of my favorite classes. The information and skills we learned were useful in life and I found it very interesting and fun. I was also running track at this time and it became a huge part of my life.  I was intrigued by the human body and how it could perform athletically as well as injury prevention. I started to eat healhier and gave up drinking pop and all in all started living a healthier lifestyle so I could perform well in my track events and run in college.  I therefore knew at this time that I wanted my career to be something related to health because it was an interest of mine and at the same time I would have a purpose of helping people; I didn’t want a job where I felt I wasn’t making an impact on someone’s life, and health education and health promotion definitely has a positive impact on multiple peoples’ lives.

One of our clients, which is primarily males, started out with monthly wellness email campaigns and has progressed into a full wellness program with biometric screenings, onsite wellness initiatives and community wellness activities.  The main component of the wellness program is an onsite biometric screening -a 36 panel, fasting blood draw  and health risk assessment that allows participants to take a deeper look at their health status and where possible health risk may lie.  Results from the aggregate report are then used for program evaluation and planning.  In 2014 there was a 21% increase in participation for the screenings, with encouragement by the organization the #1 reason for participating. 
Based on the aggregate reporting from March 2014, abnormal glucose levels decreased 8% and abnormal triglycerides decreased 2% compared to 2013.  Six participants were identified with metabolic syndrome in 2014 and with wellness initiatives targeting the areas of metabolic syndrome, the potential cost savings is $18,654. When looking at cohort data with repeat participants from 2012-2014, high BP has decreased 15%,  high cholesterol decreased 4%, not performing self-exams decreased 15%, lacking flu vaccine decreased 19%, depression decreased 4%, stress decreased 7%,  not being satisfied with life decreased 11%, insufficient aerobic exercise decreased 15%, lack of water consumption decreased 22% and tobacco use decreased 7%.
Besides biometric screenings, this group also implements 2 to 3 onsite wellness initiatives based on interest survey results and prior years’ screenings data.  Being mostly males, we’ve found that if the challenge is competition-based, participation and engagement is higher.  They have recently launched a weight loss challenge that is a competition between age groups with the incentive being a day off for the group who loses the highest total percentage of weight in the age category.  Body fat% is also being tracked with a separate incentive for 1 participant from each age category to win a $50 gift card, for losing the highest percentage of body fat.   Currently participation is at 75% compared to 34% the year prior for an individual weight loss competition.  The morale has also improved between the employees and the friendly competitiveness is motivating.  This challenge has also impacted the foods being served at meetings and events in the office-now there are healthier options. WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks are always a key part of creating a sustained wellness program.  I worked closely with the group’s Accounting Manager to develop a program outline, timeline and budget which was then pitched to the President and Vice President.  They have been on board since the beginning and it has really helped the wellness program to grow and expand, with both of them promoting the program, being involved in wellness initiatives and being wellness role models.  A Wellness Committee was created a year ago in which committee members were handpicked by the Accounting Manager and Vice President.  Data is always collected if various forms, such as health screenings and health risk assessment, other onsite wellness initiatives and surveys. This data is evaluated and assessed by the wellness committee and then used to plan future initiatives, budget and appropriate interventions targeting key health risk areas or borderline risk areas.  In May 2014 this group won a local Healthiest Employer award.

I “walk the talk” of not just being a Wellness and Health Management Specialist as my job, but in all aspects of my life.  Wellness is something that needs to constantly be worked at and improved upon.  I live by the various dimensions of wellness and recognize areas that I am doing well in and others that need some more work. I make it part of my lifestyle to go to the gym and take exercise classes not only because I should, but because I enjoy it and find it a way to unwind or manage stress.  Wellness is not just about physical activity and nutrition but mental and emotional health. I think it is important to laugh and enjoy what you are doing at work and outside of work and I emulate that. I practice what I preach and it is seen in the workplace and outside of work.
Being eager to learn from other leaders and health professionals in college, grad school, an internship and jobs have allowed me grow and achieve leadership status in my field.  Also, participating in and attending the WELCOA & AJHP Conference in 2013 and The Chapman Institute onsite training sessions for the CWPC and CWPM were amazing experiences that really solidified my passion for health and wellness and my career in worksite wellness.  I also think working with more and more groups and helping them develop a successful wellness program or revamp parts of their program and having a rapport with the client and their wellness committee or employees also helped me to achieve leadership status.  I would tell other wellness practitioners hoping to become leaders to be sure to listen to their client or target audience when it comes to wellness needs and interests, to be organized, to think in advance of issues that could arise and to keep wellness and health management programming both fun and educational in terms of health knowledge and skills for people to live a healthy lifestyle.

An innovative solution that I’ve developed and implemented for wellness programming is a program called Healthy Adds Up, which is a 6-week progressive program focused on water consumption, stretching and physical activity, with a pre and post program survey regarding health behaviors and health education, for evaluation.  These three components were chosen due to the fact that they are correlated to health conditions and disease commonly found in screening data and clinical reports from health insurance plans. A client who implemented this program had a 92% participation rate and based on survey results, there was a 51% increase in exercising 30 minutes or more 3 to 4 days per week, a 29.4% increase in those reporting they drink 70-90 ounces of water each day, 29.3% increase in stretching 15 minutes 3 to 4 days per week and 57% increase in performing muscle-strengthening exercises 3 or more days per week.
I see worksite wellness and health management a growing industry and gaining more and more positive outcomes and exposure, but at the same time it could be threatened by the EEOC or the ACA with the strict rules and laws or rules around wellness programs.  I think that there is still some pushback from employees regarding outcomes based programs or smoking surcharges or other components of programs that can seem coercive, but over time this will become more normal and natural to people and part of the culture in the workplace.  It is important for us as wellness practitioners to promote wellness programs properly and communicate all aspects of it so employees see this as an opportunity to learn about their health and well-being and proper actions to take to live a healthier lifestyle or manage health conditions, and not as something that is considered “big brother” or intrusive. As wellness professionals we also need to make sure we are staying current with the ever-changing and evolving health education and information and continute to attend conferences and trainings to learn and teach others.


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nominee Wealth of Health Award Luncheon Participating in a local 5k run for charity Artie, the Lawley Strong mascot promoting new healthy vending machines
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I've know Carly for years and her passion for wellness is unrivaled. She's influenced many to make healthier life choices in both her professional and personal endeavors, myself included. She leads by both experience and example. What's more is the way she's able to understand every aspect of healthcare - wellness, system-level, and industry - and connect them in innovative ways for healthy solutions. She's a champion for the industry and much deserving of this nomination. The world is a healthier place because of people like Carly. Keep up the superb work!

Joe R. on 10/24/2014

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