ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Melissa Reeves

Making Healthy Choices Easy!

Starting in 2010, Melissa Reeves, FreshStart Program Manager, has successfully guided Harrison Medical Center’s (HMC) wellness program and initiatives for over 2,400 employees. With 10 years of experience in exercise management, instruction and personal training, she has developed creative and innovative programs that challenge Harrison employees to think about their health and guide them towards healthier lifestyle choices. Through her association with Harrison, Melissa continues to reach out to local leaders, providing knowledge and assistance in creating a healthier and happier community. Her mission is to empower employees and her community to find fun ways to stay active, eat healthy, and think happy.

Simply go for the GREEN!

Professional Development

Melissa began her career in wellness by teaching aerobics, personal training, and health coaching. After 10 years of hands on experience working with and empowering clients to make healthy lifestyle choices, Melissa chose to move into the workplace wellness field for the local community health care system where she has built the successful FreshStart employee wellness program.  The FreshStart program has achieved the Platinum Status through the American Heart Association and the CEO’s Against Cancer award. The success of her programs have led to wonderful skill building opportunities such as acceptance in the Leadership Kitsap Class of 2014 and recognition as a 20 Under 40 Kitsap County 2014 recipient.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Math and Science, and has enrolled in the Nebraska Methodist College Master’s program which focuses on Health Promotion Management.

Demonstrated success

The most successful program implemented by Melissa and the FreshStart program addresses healthy lifestyle changes through environmental impacts. At our hospital we have found that only 10% of our employees were meeting the target of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.Improving the intake of fruits and vegetables is a strategic goal for FreshStart. The program has focused on:

  • Educating employees around what a serving of fruits and vegetables look like.
  • Increasing fresh fruit and vegetables in our salad bars.
  • Increasing fruit and vegetable snack cups into our grab and go containers.
  • Labeling fruit and vegetables cups to show total number of servings per container.
  • Subsidizing the cost of fruit and vegetables cups.
  • Developing recipes which slip vegetables into the ingredients (stealth health) and promoting with samples in the cafeterias.

Due to these changes we have seen a 6% increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables reported in the annual health assessments demonstrating a behavior change.

We have initiated wellness challenges to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, increase physical activity and sleep. The 5210 + 8 EVERY DAY Wellness Challenge is a fun program that was launched as part of a larger community obesity initiative. The 5210 + 8 also allowed us to launch larger policy change initiatives which resulted in an environmental change for Harrison through the “Think About Your Drink” initiative, which focused on reducing sugary beverage intake.  Drinks sold in the cafeteria have been labeled as green (drink plenty), yellow (drink occasionally), and red (drink rarely if at all).  Green drinks are now prominently placed in the middle rows while the yellow and red drinks are placed in the harder to reach rows.  Since the beginning of this program in January 2014 there has been a 14% decrease in the sales of “red” drinks and 14% increase in the sales of “green” drinks.  This program has changed our workplace culture for our employees as you often hear employees discussing the “green” drink options or labeling other choices as “red” drinks.  In fact, we began incorporating the “think about your drink” program including free water bottles into our monthly New Employee Orientation to ensure the cultural shift continues.

The WELCOA 7 benchmarks have been critical in helping our program move forward.  The first benchmark the FreshStart program used was to engage our executive team.  Our executive team has been pivotal in helping to ensure the FreshStart program continues to grow, meets the demands of our employees, and creates a culture of health in our organization.  To leverage this support we created team step challenges which engage our employees to wear the subsidized Fitbits that are part of the program.  Each executive led a team and held pep rallies to gain the support of our employees.  With this month-long challenge we had over 58 million steps logged into our wellness portal.  Additional benchmarks that we have used are collecting data, crafting an operating plan, choosing appropriate interventions, and carefully evaluating outcomes.  Each year we develop yearly strategic goals, which feed into the tactics which become part of the wellness operation plan.  We host annual biometric screening and health assessment fairs with wellness coaching onsite during the open enrollment period and have participation directly linked to both of our benefits packages. The results, success stories, and goals achieved are reported in a data dashboard that is shared with employees, executives, and the board of directors.   Each year the benefits team, marketing team, wellness team, and executive team drive the strategies and use the data collected from the screenings and health assessment to determine the FreshStart strategic goals for the year. The WELCOA 7 benchmarks have been used to create a solid foundation which has created consistency and support for the program.  Because of this solid foundation the program has built the momentum necessary to sustain our wellness program long term.


Melissa believes that authenticity is critical to a successful program and it is demonstrated by “leading by example”. She runs a loop which goes by the hospital with a group of employees, including many of the executive team, three times a week. Melissa is often found walking the park after work and meets up with other employees to help them stay motivated.  She also has led fun step challenges which have encouraged participants to beat the wellness manager.

To be a great leader in the wellness field you have to create a program which encourage and embrace employees where they are at.  It is not about being perfect or striving for the extreme but rather about celebrating small victories along the way.

Melissa has come to realize that to become a leader in wellness you must understand that we cannot make meaningful change alone. Partnerships with community organizations lend towards greater power and these relationships with other businesses have increased the demand for healthier options in vending machines, food suppliers, and have expanded opportunities for the local farmers markets. These relationships have all helped her impact the health of the community.


Population health management is part of the core of wellness.  We must build the environments that help improve the health of our communities.  Melissa has partnered with the local school district and health district to impact change for children with a pedometers for school program.  This is a yearlong program which encourages school aged children to track their steps and healthy behaviors each day.  This program is designed to leverage community support to “adopt” a school and supply the children, teachers, administrators, and volunteers with pedometers to help motivate physical activity.  To date we have engaged enough money to support three schools with pedometers with over 18 classrooms served.  This pilot project has started with our lowest income schools.  This program will begin collecting data over the next few months allowing Melissa to engage further community support to expand into additional schools.

Compelling Vision

Melissa believes that positive psychology will become more important to wellness programs in the future and envisions programs that are more holistic.  The opportunities and research in the positive psychology field are growing every day and present wellness programs a unique perspective that is often times missed in the rush to biometric screening fairs.

Melissa has already begun looking at this approach and has developed gratitude walls, think happy journals, and stress campaigns which have helped the employees of Harrison tackle the stresses related to a two-year long affiliation process into a new health system.  This more holistic approach lends itself to many opportunities for wellness programs of the future:

  • Leveraging wellness programs to engage employees in positive psychology behaviors like, gratitude, paying it forward, acts of kindness etc.
  • Focusing on organizational purpose and each individual employee’s contribution.
  • Allowing total wellness behaviors to be the focus and weight loss and biometric numbers to be the secondary side effect.
  • Creating metrics around value on investment not just return on investment.
  • Utilizing technology to give employees a better understanding of their overall wellness and happiness.
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Simply go for the GREEN!
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