First, I want to take this opportunity to thank WELCOA for the training, resources and opportunities that have inspired me and the employers that I have served. More often then not, peers seek out my expertise in workplace wellness and it is WELCOA’s awesome training and support that has provided me with this privilege.
Currently, I am working in two separate positions providing technical assistance in the field of worksite wellness to employers. The scope of services that I provide range from population assessments (health, culture environment), diagnostic screens, health communications, program design, and evaluation. Since 2009, I have been employed by Kenosha Visiting Nurse Association, a VNA in my hometown. My role at KVNA gave the ability to apply all of the knowledge needed to implement the 7 Benchmarks through the facilitation of health screens and opportunities to partner with wellness committee's and provide technical assistance. Furthermore, this year I have been fortunate to take on a leadership position as a SME/Coach for the CDC’s Work@Health Program providing technical assistance/coaching online to small-medium size businesses.
My health promotion career began 24 years ago in the Naval Reserve as a Medical Corpsman teaching HIV/AIDS Prevention and CPR to enlisted populations. The following seven years were intense years of learning and growth as a Prevention Specialist for a local AIDS Service Organization. While investigating my purpose I coordinated produce sales at a local Farmers Market for three years. It was at this time I realized that my purpose was to help people feel better through living a healthier lifestyle so I acquired a personal trainer certification. After coaching and training people for several years I was convinced that getting people to move more and eat better was much more difficult and required a more comprehensive approach.
I have held a WELCOA Faculty status for four years, recent certifications include:
Certified Workplace Wellness Program Manager, CWWPM
Certified Work@Health Training Facilitator
Intrinsic Coach, CIC
Diabetes Prevention & Lifestyle Coach DPP
My career experiences have offered me some outstanding learning opportunities. In addition to the above mentioned certifications, I will be graduating from DePaul University with my undergraduate degree in Health Promotion in the next six months.
My current career roles allow me to be a force multiplier and partner with many clients with the intent of facilitating worksite well-being with and for the employee’s. Listed below are a few of the most successful interventions designed to create awareness, build skills and improve the environment/culture.
Health Status Improvements
Know Your D! A local client was interested in having their worker population tested for Vitamin D levels. I have been working with this client for many years so the culture was accustomed to the different ranges of diagnostic screens and the benefits of measuring and tracking. Aggregate numbers showed that we tested 60 percent of the population and 80 percent were considered low in Vitamin D and another 10 percent were considered deficient. For the next 3 three months, I provided individual feedback on improving Vitamin D levels and designed various health communications illustrating the importance of Vitamin D and what you need to do to increase levels.
Individual level outcomes 70 percent of those that were low or deficient have reported an increase of foods that contain Vitamin D, supplementation and follow-up testing with a physician to monitor levels. Additional outcomes include 90 percent of those tested were now aware of their Vitamin D status, benefit of testing as well as that a Vitamin D screen could be included in the cost of a preventive health exam.
Organizational level outcomes The wellness committee identified specific areas that could help the employee’s have more exposure to foods that contain Vitamin D and employees were encouraged to go outside during breaks if sunny outside.
Check Your Engine Change Your Oil A local client with an employee population that was predominantly blue-collar factory workers had a substantial prevalence of high blood pressure among 2nd and 3rd shift workers. The workers were educated on sleep hygiene, healthy nutrition habits for shift workers and how to use the self-monitoring blood pressure devices that were purchased for onsite use. Workers were encouraged and allowed time to take blood pressure during their shift and ongoing health communications were used to reinforce the message.
Individual level outcomes After six months medium to high-risk workers reported improved control of elevated blood pressure and felt more productive during their shift. Many employee’s felt more confident about being able to control or manage blood pressure.
Organizational level outcomes This intervention created a lot of awareness around self-monitoring and tracking for health. Cultural shifts began to take place and opportunities for wellness were welcomed after these units were made available to the employees.
COOKING FOR the HEALTH of IT! This employer’s workers were assessed for and demonstrated a need for a hands-on approach to healthier foods. For the past two years I have designed and facilitated cooking demonstrations that have addressed the needs of this population. Paticipant-driven theme’s include demonstrations that addressed inflammation, Vitamin B absorption, heart and vascular health, plant-based nutrition and the healthy homemade snacks while watching television. Every cooking demonstration was filled to capacity!
Individual level outcomes My process evaluation concluded that 90-100% of participants intended to make the recipe that was introduced to them that day. Also, through the years I have learned that many of these participants began to change other behaviors once they began to make better eating choices and received adequate resources -“Dr Ann” to help them do so!
Organizational level outcomes Wellness champions were discovered while attending these cooking demonstrations. These champions were then recruited for other wellness activities to build excitement and increase participation rates.
Capacity Building For Change For the past six months as a SME/Coach for the Work@Health Program inspiring employers to create and lead the vision they have for well-being to take place. All of WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks are applied to meet the specific criteria of the program so a cultural shift is sure to take place. One particular client stands out who was able to influence the culture of the workers and the clients that this population served! This employer works for a residential day program that serves people with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Her wellness committee assessed the employee population (needs, interests, environment), planned an intervention for the employees and is at the end of implementing it right now. During the process evaluation it was discovered that many of the clients were joining in the wellness activities and wanted more of it! Needless to say, the wellness committee revised a few steps and now the employees and residents are participating and motivating each other to practice healthier behaviors.
Individual level outcomes So far process evaluations indicate more movement during the day and an increased intake of fruits and vegetables among employees and clients.
Organizational level outcomes At this point the intervention engagement rates among staff were average, and client participation was high. The culture has been recognized as changing and the wellness committee is energized to develop an operating plan for the year with appropriate interventions for both population participants.
I personally embrace the future I want others to have. The vision I put forth to create with clients is driven by the fact that everyone deserves the right to feel as good as I do! Additionally important, is knowing what I know about leading a healthy lifestyle and have the resources and support to do so. This inherent belief is what drives me to maintain disciplined attention as an active partner inspiring wellness committee’s and individual clients.
Walk The Talk
Active participation in “feeling good” is the example I prefer to lead in my community, with clients, co-workers and friends. Running and yoga help me to prevent the effects of stress on my body and prepare me for events during the day. My diet is like a science experiment these days as I become more interested in how my body responds to certain foods. Nourishing my body first takes precedence over pleasure always. Relationships and mutually beneficial social exchanges among friends help me to experience pleasure and feel a sense of belonging. I practice rest and rejuvenation by sleeping at least seven hours per night-no exceptions. Tracking certain health metrics keep me on track with my goals and provide me with the feedback I need to make changes.
Health Promotion resources that focused specifically on engaging a culture of health and interventions that are workplace specific have helped me to achieve leadership status in my field. Without a doubt four years of WELCOA webinars and certifications have given me the confidence to “get on the balcony” and “identify and solve the adaptive challenge”. Attaining my CWWPM credential helped me to “develop the blueprint” for integrating more cultural recognition and development in program design. I learned about the significant value of “giving it back to the people” after achieving my CIC. More recently, my leadership abilities were tested as I received humbling recognition as a Work@Health SME/Coach. Many of my peers have much more formal education than I do; however come to me for resources or advice. Furthermore, my clients have been identified as being above average in compliance and readiness as participants of the Work@Health pilot program.
Advice to Wellness Practitioners
The advice that I give to wellness practitioners is to become a member of WELCOA and attend every learning opportunity at least twice, read every book recommended, and then apply the learning as soon as you can. Understand that shifts in the industry are taking place and have a plan in place to prepare for them. Culture is KING and can limit your impact. Always meet the culture where they are at in everything you do. Know how to develop and grow relationships with the people you serve. Assess and go to great lengths in your understanding of what the businesses can’t do. Create value by making it easier for businesses to understand why and what they need to do to.
Low-Cost Diagnostic Lab Services-Health Status Improvements
I was able to secure for my department at KVNA, low cost diagnostic lab screening services through a partnership with a lab in Milwaukee. People from the community and local corporate wellness programs are able to take advantage of these low cost prices, almost a third of what they would normally pay at a hospital lab. Clients are able to attain more feedback and monitor their own health status and in most cases without a prescription. My goal is to be to provide affordable Telomere Testing and micronutrient based testing to our corporate wellness clients and community at large in the near future. I am currently creating awareness around Telomere testing and other comprehensive labs to compliment individualized medicine through population health.
Prevent injury and Enhance Performance Program (PEP)-Behavior Change
I designed an intervention for a client that involved an active warm-up session before factory line workers began their shift. Employees were led by a wellness committee member or team lead with specific exercises that were designed to address and prevent repetitive movement strains and injuries. The program kicked off in the beginning of 2014 and has a 85 percent participation rate. There have been no injuries reported so far!
Work@Health-Culture is changing!
As a technical assistance provider for the CDC’s Work@Health Program it is imperative that I help these “newer to wellness” small-medium size companies change the culture with very few hiccups. I have learned from experience how important culture is to a successful wellness program. Some of the strategies that I have used with clients are to take things slow and assess for feedback often. Communicating effectively and often to line staff and the management team MUST be a top priority. Health communications should be credible, specific, short and aesthetically appealing. Wellness champions are your gatekeepers, recognize and influence their capacity often.
We are our own biggest threat. Health promotion people need to remember who they are and who they are not. With shifts taking place, we need to be a good example of change agents that can be flexible and keep the end in mind.
In the next five years, I see myself aligning with high performing organization's and individuals that share my vision. My purpose is to advance individuals/organizations to be their best by leading with an authentic heart and curious mind. Furthering my education in the next five years, is important to me, and will include a graduate degree that will give me the skills and confidence to serve my above mentioned purpose.