ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Sarah Dillivan-Pospisil

Supporting personal empowerment

Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire started over 30 years ago as a local thought and has grown into a nationally recognized HMO. A community-based non-profit health plan, the Cooperative is serving more than 70,000 members in Western and Central Wisconsin. As a cooperative, every member has a voice in the organization. A Board of Directors elected by members has the responsibility for overseeing the activities of the Cooperative. The culture of the Cooperative centers on a belief in the benefits of personal one-on-one health promotion interventions. By taking a face-to-face approach that is personalized to each participant, the Cooperative can more effectively help their employees and members improve their lifestyle and overall quality of life.

This culture reinforces the purpose of the Cooperative: To optimize the health of our members through the Cooperative’s pooling of health-related resources. This guides everything we do and drives our continued focus on providing high-quality, personal service to our members.

In the daily rush, it seems all too common that one of the first things sacrificed by our employees and member is their personal health. Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire recognizes the challenges its employees face and has designed a health promotion program geared to help employees and members work towards or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Participation in all of our programs is voluntary. However, in recognition of the effort shown by the program’s participants, incentives are offered and may include: a discounted Health Promotion premium, financial reward, or an HSA contribution is awarded to those who achieve the outlined objectives of the program.

Sarah was hired three years ago by the Cooperative as a Health Promotion Coach to design, facilitate and evaluate worksite wellness programs for new and existing commercial groups in Wisconsin. Sarah’s major strengths lie in her passion for learning. Her passion for learning is then extended into her actions and behaviors. She practices what she learns and uses her knowledge from living these healthy behaviors to assist others in achieving their wellness goals. Her passion and hard work is evident in the successes of our expansion of wellness programs.

Governor Scott Walker signed the Healthy Jobs Act into law at Group Health Cooperative. The Healthy Jobs Act creates a workplace wellness grant program for small businesses in Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker signed the Healthy Jobs Act into law at Group Health Cooperative.  The Healthy Jobs Act creates a workplace wellness grant program for small businesses in Wisconsin.



Professional Development:

Sarah’s education is from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Health Promotion/Wellness, Nutrition and Health Coaching.   She has earned many certifications over the years some including WELCOA certifications, Therapeutic Lifestyle Coach, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Certified Wellness Practitioner and Certified Wellness Speaker.  Continuing education from WELCOA has been the most valuable with every day functions both personally and professionally.       

The Health Promotion programs Sarah develops and implements have received prestigious awards including WELCOA’s gold award and The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s worksite wellness award. 

Sarah’s passion for Health Promotion is apparent in her electric coaching style: passionate, inspirational, and ambitious.  She takes the time to understand members by creating individualized plans to improve quality of life.

Demonstrated Success:

The WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks helped shape the programs Sarah develops and facilities.   She has significantly contributed to the Cooperative’s Health Promotion program, earning the Gold Level award from WELCOA and the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce award.  Sarah is involved in two committees that worked on a technical assistance grant through the Department of Health Services resulting in the Eau Claire County being selected to host wellness workshops.   The goal of the workshop is to promote wellness throughout the community, inspire companies to enhance their wellness program or provide tools to get started.  Sarah’s skills and knowledge will help continue our initiative to work towards a Well City awarded by WELCOA’s worksite health promotion initiative.     

Group Health Cooperative offers wellness programs to its employees and spouses.  The Cooperative also assists in the development and facilitation of wellness programs for companies throughout Wisconsin.  One of Sarah’s most successful interventions was implementing a results-oriented wellness program to a commercial group’s employees and spouses.  As a result, program participation increased by over 350%.  This tremendous growth in participation garnered noted victories: 91.69% met the program requirements over the course of the year and the group saw positive movement in healthy measurements for blood pressure.    

Creating and maintaining a positive and health centered culture is very important to the Cooperative.  The Cooperative is always looking for ways to work toward a culture of support and encouragement to be the best they can be.  A large emphasis is placed on positive culture; studies have shown how presenteeism of employees is affected in cultures that do not demonstrate a genuine caring for employees.  Sarah has helped to shift the culture and leads by example by bringing healthy food options to work functions, allowing 30 minute walk breaks during the day, and being supportive.  

The success of our programs comes from capturing CEO support.  Our CEO is a role model for our company and has created a culture that supports healthy behaviors.   We offer onsite fitness classes during the day which are led by the Health Promotion department.  No equipment is needed for the classes and accommodates all fitness levels.  Classes have grown over 300%; our CEO and other members of upper management often attend.  These breaks are encouraged to help employee’s gain energy and be more productive throughout the day.

Our Wellness Action Group (WAG) serves as a group of committed employees from various departments who strive to identify, recommend, and implement activities that will positively impact the health and well-being of employees.   The WAG team provides resources and tools to support a culture of health by following written goals and objectives and reporting outcomes. 

The Cooperative has been able to change one company’s perspective on their work environment. During the first year, 55% of responders viewed their work environment as not supportive of being healthy to compared to only 35% the second year.   

Another success story includes a $20,536,004 savings in premiums over the course of seven years.  This commercial group has 5% lower increase in premium rates due to educating members on health care utilization and providing wellness programs to members.


Sarah lives health and wellness daily at work and home.  You can find Sarah walking or biking to work year round, walking at lunch, and/or doing stretches at her desk.  Every year, she challenges herself to step outside the box and take on new activities or events.  An Ironman and marathoner finisher, she loves pushing herself to the limits.  Even though she competes in highly endurance events she can relate to members getting started in a walking program or seeking advice for running a 5k.  Her passion is contagious.  Not only is Sarah a strong advocate at work, but also the community. 

Sarah’s advice for new leaders in the field:

Becoming a leader doesn’t happen overnight.  Select a mentor who you can help you along the way to help develop the skills necessary to succeed and grow.  It is crucial to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team to help carry out the mission and vision of your company. 



According to feedback from member’s, activity based wellness was burdensome and time consuming.  The Cooperative pursed proactive approaches to maintain health care costs and outcomes based programs served as the next step in the program’s evolution. 

Two major lifestyle behaviors affecting employee health and driving health care costs are obesity and smoking.  Sarah has motivated individuals to begin the stages of change process by providing tools, resources, and offering individualized goal setting with onsite coaches.

Our program is designed to change people’s lives.  We have.  We approach every day as if we have the opportunity to save some’s life.  We have received letters from our members who have detected cancer early due to a screening program that we highly encourage.  We want our members to be proactive in their health and establish a relationship with their primary care provider to determine the appropriate screenings based on their age and gender.     

Compelling Vision:

Over the next five years, I hope to see a focus on prevention, and advancements in technology for the wellness field.  Companies will offer wellness programs as a benefit for their employees, with emphasis not only focusing on activity and nutrition, but also a holistic approach to wellness.  The shift will change from illness based care to extensive work on prevention and a healthy lifestyle.   

Our wellness initiatives now include Facebook, YouTube, Apps, blogs, and web based newsletters. I can see within the next five years the personalized aspect of wellness taken away by social media.   We will stand in the forefront to continue to offer individualized appointments.  Our brand narrative sums up our future, “Together, we can enhance the quality and value in the care our communities receive, navigating us toward the ultimate goal: good health.”  I will use this knowledge to continue our efforts, working towards creating a Well City in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


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Governor Scott Walker signed the Healthy Jobs Act into law at Group Health Cooperative.  The Healthy Jobs Act creates a workplace wellness grant program for small businesses in Wisconsin. Megan, Kaitlyn and Sarah pictured with Ryan Picarella with our Well Workplace Award during the 2014 Well Workplace Award Ceremony
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Sarah D.
As a Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist and Therapeutic Lifestyle Coach, Coach Sarah develops, implements and evaluates worksite wellness programs for Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire. Her personal commitment to teaching people how to lead a healthy lifestyle allows her to show people how simple changes can vastly improve their quality of life. Coach Sarah and her husband love spending time outdoors, regardless of the season. Summers are spent in the garden, at local farmers markets, kayaking, hiking or disc golfing. During the winter, she enjoys taking advantage of snowboarding and snowshoeing. View Sarah D.'s Profile.
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Special thanks to you Sarah for inspiring me to work hard everyday at staying healthy. Your praise is always given even over the smallest accomplishments. Your words of encouragement run through my head whenever I feel like giving up. Thank you for being such a great person and coach!

Nancy B. on 11/21/2014

WOW, 35!

Samantha P. on 11/19/2014


Samantha P. on 11/17/2014


Samantha P. on 11/15/2014


Samantha P. on 11/14/2014

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