ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Jennifer Vasko


Jennifer Vasko is an Alaskan resident and avid lover of the Alaskan outdoors, who was inspired by her personal active lifestyle to help others in the workplace. She holds an AAS in Accounting with 11 plus years of accounting experience who joined The Wilson Agency in 2008 as the Accounting/Administrative Support Specialist. She served on the Wellness Committee immediately and became the internal Wellness Coordinator for the Live Well at TWA wellness program in 2011.

Jennifer has completed the following WELCOA Certifications and is constantly attending webinars and seminars to educate herself on Wellness Initiatives in the workplace.

• Culture Clash – How We Win The Battle For Better Health
• Empowering Your Employees to Take Charge Of Their Health And Manage Their Own Health Care
• Seven Benchmarks Intermediate/Advanced
• How to Effectively Lead Your Workplace Wellness Initiative

Jennifer has lived a life full of excitement and activity. She climbed the mountains of Montana fighting forest fires, rode horses through the hills of Colorado, chased storms in Florida, and hiked with her dogs on the back trails of Alaska. But Jennifer’s adventurous lifestyle was interrupted in 2013 when the pain she had been experiencing over the years became more frequent and debilitating. Previously active and healthy, there were days when she could no longer walk or leave her bed.

Desperate, she sought help from experts who diagnosed her with both severe Endometriosis and Adenomyosis. The only cure was to complete a full hysterectomy. Her health had forced her to make a hard life decision. She could live in extreme pain and possibly never be active again or she could give up her dreams of ever becoming a mother. She made the heartbreaking decision to have a hysterectomy at age 30.

Shockingly, doctors during surgery discovered that the Endometriosis had begun spreading to her other organs and they removed it just in time before it began causing further problems. After six months of recovery and finally free from pain, Jennifer’s decision compelled her to gain a new lease on life. After being trapped in bed for so long, Jennifer had gained an appreciation for mobility and good health that she would have never had without her struggle. Though Jennifer will never be a biological mother, she knew that she could still use her regaining strength to improve herself once again but better this time. Furthermore, she became even more determined to inspire, educate, and encourage others to love themselves, appreciate their health and improve it and maintain it for life.

Wellness By Choice:

Jennifer believes that the success of mind, body, and soul Wellness begins on the inside, with a personal choice and a mission. When an individual makes the decision to become healthier, they should be fully equipped with the tools to help them. She believes that education is the key to helping encourage others to carry out their own mission and the prerogative of her program is to support and facilitate that mission in dynamic, creative ways.

Jennifer’s Wellness program is a participatory program which highlights the natural consequences of various health choices. Using an online portal, her program utilizes a combination of science-based research and mindfulness disciplines from various religious and metaphysical practices to address integral health issues, including the mind, body, and soul. By using a ‘pros and cons’ platform, she has designed the program to empower individuals with informed choice. By making the program ‘choice’ oriented, the program also becomes more participatory and therefore, more successful.

The Wellness program has indeed been successful, with an 88% participation rate. Members participate by using the online portal for education, tips, recipes, and health challenges. The online portal includes walking, running, and biking challenges with personal fitness goals. The website also includes voluntary submission of biometrics in order to keep track of progress including heart rate, BMI, cholesterol, glucose, and weight.

Wellness: It’s a Cultural Thing

Jennifer has also created a corporate culture of Wellness at the Wilson Agency, purchasing organic produce for the break room, creating Wilson Agency teams for charitable events and marathons. At Christmas and Thanksgiving, employees receive organic turkeys as well as squash and cranberry sauce recipes. Employees also receive discounts for active lifestyle products and memberships to ski resorts, hiking gear, swim classes, ice skating, gyms, etc. Every month, an online health challenge member wins a parking spot in the garage, which is motivating for cold, Alaskan winters and has been proven to increase participation. 

Thanks to Jennifer, Wilson Agency stairwells and hallways are lined with Wellness motivational posters, employees are certified to perform CPR, employees are encouraged to start the day with an organic smoothie of apples, pears, and kale, and use their lunch hour to walk the park. EAP programs are also readily available to help employees with mental health issues, addiction counseling, and smoking cessation. The Wilson Agency provides support groups, education, and encourages employees to include mental health into the repertoire of self-care.

Furthermore, Jennifer also believes that healthy choices begin in the culture of home and extend outwards to work and the public. In light of that, she included the “Clean Out Your Cabinets” challenge for the 2015 program which challenges employees and their families to throw away or donate processed foods full of trans fats, carbs, high sodium, empty calories, and saturated fats and replace their shelves with organic and raw ingredients. This aspect of the program is based on the belief that by being an example of healthy choices, parents have more influence on their children than schools or other programs do and they are more likely to continue lifelong healthy habits. Employees can also log onto Facebook and learn about natural alternatives for household chemicals, such as replacing bleach and ammonia with apple cider vinegar or lavender spray.

And since laughter is one of the main ingredients of Wellness, Jennifer will also send employees a work-appropriate joke featuring a cute animal.

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You are amazing and Im glad so many others fet to see this!

Dawn M. on 10/29/2014

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