ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Tina Severance-Fonte

School Bus Operators Driving Towards Wellness

Current Company: The School Board of Broward County, Florida
Job Title: Wellness Coordinator
Industry Type: Education
Experience: 10 years in the field
Organization Size: 26,000 employees (40,000 covered lives with retirees and dependents)

In Transportation, The School Board of Broward County, Florida, had a high rate of absenteeism, a high rate of disability claims, and many CDL drivers having blood pressure in an uncontrolled state. The Department of Transportation disqualifies commercially licensed drivers with a systolic blood pressure at or above 160 or a diastolic pressure at or above 90. This mandate has the potential to effect the driver's livelihood and possibly the safety of the students.

Broward School Board Gets Bus Drivers' Health Back On Track

The School Board of Broward County, Florida challenges their bus drivers to exercise, eat better, and lower their blood pressure. They were successful !

1. Professional Development:

B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint,  Masters, Ed. Leadership, Florida Atlantic University, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist


Bronze Award in Worksite Wellness by the Directors of Health Promotion and Education

WELCOA Gold Award (Wellness Council of America)

Certificate of Recognition: Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade

Winner of Large Employer Group: Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade

Honorable Mention, Innovations in Patient Engagement Awards, Florida Health Care Coalition

Wellness manuscript published in Population Health Management Magazine:
Improved blood pressure control among school bus drivers with hypertension
Doyle J, Severance-Fonte T, Morandi-Matricaria E,~Wogen~J, Frech-Tamas F.
Popul Health Manag. 2010 Apr;13(2):97-103. doi: 10.1089/pop.2009.0011.

ABC World News Tonight:   Broward School Board Gets Bus Drivers' Health Back on Track:

D.  I did not make the conscience decision to purposely go into this field, as most wellness practitioners do. In fact, my background is simply a classroom teacher.  However, I have always lived my life as a person who is poised for unexpected opportunities.  One summer, I felt like I needed a change, so I began to look at the available jobs within the School Board.  I came across “Wellness Coordinator” and thought that it sounded very interesting. So I applied and the rest is history!  I have been serving in this capacity for more than a decade.
E. Of the above listed awards and recognition, being seen on national television on ABC World News Tonight (with Charles Gibson), has allowed my career to skyrocket to new heights.  There are not many Worksite Wellness Professionals whose health programs have been featured on the 6 o’clock national news.  Because of this exposure, I have been asked numerous times to speak at conferences, and to share best practices around the country.  I enjoy engaging new people and inspiring the next generation of influencers.

2. Demonstrated Success:

The most successful program that I ever facilitated addressed blood pressure among school bus drivers. There was a combination of interventions that worked simultaneously to achieve the goal of lowering blood pressure in both previously diagnosed and undiagnosed commercially licensed school bus operators. First and foremost, this study was funded through a partnership with Novartis Pharmaceuticals, and was overseen by an IRB board.  A pre-test blood pressure screening was given in August, at the beginning of the school year, and a post-test in May.

Other strategies included The School Board giving complimentary gym memberships and a training bus was provided as a shuttle so that the drivers could utilize their free gym benefit both as a group and also as an individual. The fitness center even offered free, customized, classes exclusively for the drivers. The result was positive peer pressure, encouragement and perseverance.

Additionally, our healthplan provided weekly, private, one-on-one consultations with a nutritionist, use of pedometers, educational materials in both English and Spanish, “Behavior Change” training through our Employee Assistance Program, Healthy Food cooking demos, Wellness speakers, biometric screenings, and installed blood pressure machines in all transportation terminals so that employees could track their progress.  Novartis also provided an incentive for program completion.


Of the 200 plus Bus Drivers that were involved in the study, at baseline, only 40% of drivers were in a normal blood pressure range, yet at post, there were 58%.  Also at baseline, 3.7% of drivers were in a critical Stage 3 of blood pressure and at post, there were none.

Even with School Bus Drivers that were previously diagnosed by a medical professional with hypertension, 12% were still in a critical Stage 3, danger zone.  At study completion, there were 0% of employees in stage 3.

24% of the Bus Drivers decreased their systolic BP by greater than 20 millimeters of mercury, or mmHg.  25% of the Bus Drivers lowered their Diastolic by 10 mmHg or more.  The post-survey indicated increased participation in self-management behaviors including diet, exercise and oral medication adherence.  Conversely, there was a one percent decrease in the employee’s reluctance to do "nothing."

81% of survey respondents indicate that they monitored their BP, compared to 56% of the baseline study sample.

94% of SBBC Bus Drivers took their enrollment in the BP Downshift Program seriously and made every effort to fully participate. 93% of drivers recognized the importance of living their life in a healthier manner and committed to continually strive for better health in the future.  Drivers that completed all study components were incentivized with a large yellow cooler complete with the Downshift logo to carry on the bus with them and to serve as a reminder of their commitment to improving their health.

Finally, a key finding verified that survey results at follow-up indicated a high level of participant satisfaction with the BP DownShift Program and the Health and Wellness Programs offered by The School Board of Broward County, Florida.  The partnership with Novartis Pharmaceutics proved to be a valuable educational initiative. This study manuscript was eventually published in Population Health Management Magazine, The Miami Herald, and featured on the Rachael Ray show and ABC news.  It was overseen by a professional IRB Board.  See link below:

3. Leadership:

A.  I “walk the talk” by modeling, by being a compassionate listener, and an expert encourager.  Additionally, I choose several School Board employees each year to feature as “success stories.”  These testimonials have been captured in both video and photographic traveling exhibits for others to be inspired.

B.  The experience that helped me achieve leadership status in the field of Wellness was to have one of my programs featured on ABC World News Tonight.

C.  The advice that I would give to other practitioners is to form meaningful relationships with people in the workplace and to initiate valuable partnerships within the community,

4.  Innovation:

A.  One of the things that we did differently in the later part of 2013, was to require the employee to go through a biometric screening and also to complete a Health Risk Assessment.  In years past, these things were optional with a $50 gift card as an incentive.  We had only about 2,000 participants utilizing the “carrot” theory.  Since our union contracts require us to pay the health, dental and vision premiums in full for the benefit-eligible School Board employees, our only way of encouraging participation in these wellness activities was to move our non-participating workforce into our “lower option” health plan, which would require higher co-payments and more out of pocket expenses when utilization occurs.  To our delight, we had 18,272 employees that completed both.  This was a major shift that I did not expect.

Another innovation that became effective on July 1st, 2014, was the School Board moving to a completely “smoke-free” campus.  An employee can no longer use any type of tobacco product on School Board property, not even in their own personal vehicle if it is parked on-site.

B.  Results/Outcomes:

I. As stated previously, the Fall of 2013 was the very first time that The School Board of Broward County, Florida, ever required biometrics and the completion of an HRA to remain in a premium plus health plan.  2013 is our baseline and as we continue the same “employee requirement” plans for 2014, we are eager to measure health status improvement and behavior change.  However, we have noticed a renewed and emerging “culture of wellness” as these initiatives move forward each year.

Compelling Vision:

A.   My vision is to move our current “bell curve” to the right.  With the use of 1:1 biometrics for all of our employees and district-wide educational initiatives that align with the Wellness Observance Calendar, I think that we are well on our way to achieving the goal of optimum health as our gold standard within the district. 

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Tina S.
I have been the Wellness Coordinator for The School Board of Broward County, Florida, for the past ten years. The best part of the job is assisting employees reach their physical goals. I do this by providing tangible resources and services, education and encouragement. I have an excellent rapport with our providers and together our goal is to save lives and reduce claims. View Tina S.'s Profile.
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