ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Julie Garcia

Wellness Works at Maricopa County!!

Hello- I am the Wellness Supervisor within the government agency of Maricopa County. We are an agency with approximately 13,000 employees and serve another 14,000 dependents, making our reaching 27,000 individuals across the Phoenix Valley.

I have been in the worksite wellness field for approximately ten years and have been in this role within Maricopa County for almost 2 years.

Professional Development

I am originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico and received a college scholarship to play softball at the University of New Mexico in education. At the completion of my education, I went on to coach collegiately at Central Michigan University where I also received my Masters of Arts in education. I coached softball for five more years until I landed a job back in my home-town in the public health arena. My passion had always been physical activity so I was excited to get a job focusing on obesity prevention. Most of my work in New Mexico focused on the school and community settings with a soft focus on worksite wellness.

In 2010, as my family began to grow, we made the decision to move to Phoenix. I was fortunate to gain a position within the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS). AZDHS has had a strong employee wellness focus and I was fortunate to be in a position with half my work focusing on worksite wellness. In this position, AZDHS sent me to Maryland to get certified as a Worksite Wellness specialist.

In 2013, Maricopa County's Wellness Supervisor retired and that left a vacancy in the position. I was fortunate to get hired in the position and continued my efforts in worksite wellness at Maricopa County in January of 2013.

At Maricopa County, in 2013, we were honored as one of the Phoenix Valley's top employers for worksite wellness in the large employer category. Also, in 2013 we were a featured County in the National Association of Counties publication (

To date, my experience more than my education have provided me the most value. I have been very fortunate to work in various colleges and universities, state, regional, and County government agencies and for a non-profit. Each of these entities and the interactions with various individuals within each organization has given me so many valuable experiences that have shaped me professionally.

Demonstrated Success 

At the cornerstone of the wellness program at Maricopa County is the annual mass biometric screening event. This initiative services all benefit participating employees and each year we have seen an increase in participation by approximately 300 annually. In 2012, participation was 9,612 and in 2014 participation rose to 10,352. This increase is due to increased opportunities for screenings and partnerships with various Departments and locations. For example, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has approximately 3,000 employees. In 2014, we added three jail locations to our list of screening locations which attributed to the increase in participation. Biometric screenings provide the employee with information regarding their health status. For approximately 25% of the population, this is the only health care visit opportunity they participate in. Also, for the Wellness program, the aggregate information we receive is vital in assisting us in making programmatic decisions.

Another major success we have seen within the Wellness program is the implementation of a Wellness Champion program. Maricopa County has over 50 departments and locations with employees across the Phoenix Valley. Logistically, this makes communication of any resource, event or initiative impossible from one office. The Wellness Champions serve as a conduit for information. The Wellness office can deploy a mass marketing campaign and the Wellness Champions then send out the information to their Departments. By utilizing this system, the Wellness program has seen increased participation in lunch and learns, events and campaigns.

The WELCOA Benchmarks have been the foundation of our Wellness Champion. To launch the program we began by creating a County Manager's Council on Fitness and Nutrition. The Council is chaired by our County Manager, Tom Manos and includes and Assistant County Manager, three Department Director's, and other key employees from Safety and Public Health. This Council and the leadership support paved the way for the Wellness Champion program which also fulfills the Wellness Team benchmark. Each Wellness Champion has a team of individuals who assists them in implementing initiatives in their Department and Workplace. With our biometric screenings we receive an annual report which is divided out by Departments. This data has been helpful in creating action plans for Departments that focus directly on the health risks most prevalent in their population.

Maricopa County is fortunate to have fitness centers across the Valley. Along with the fitness centers, we also have a partnership with the YMCA for discounted memberships. Also, with the leadership of our fitness coordinator, we have been fortunate to have a group of 30 volunteer exercise instructors who are employees of the County. The volunteers teach over 100 classes each month. This mixture of onsite and offsite physical activity opportunities across Maricopa County provided us with health assessment data showing a 3% increase in the number of employees who indicate 3 or more days of moderate intensity physical activity.


Maricopa County's Wellness program is a partner entity within the Health Improvement Partnership across Maricopa County. We regularly submit our successes and are recognized as a major player in the Worksite Wellness sector of the organization. 

Personally, I "walk the talk" by living a healthier lifestyle by watching my intake and participating in regular physical activity. Recently, our fitness center received a renovation. With the renovation came the installation of a TRX system. My workout routine now incorporates TRX exercises along with my usual crossfit hybrid activities. My focus this year has been to improve my personal stress management skills. With this focus, I am trying to incorporate more breathing exercises into my day while also implementing meditation activities. 

One of my greatest strengths has been a willingness to learn new things. This openness has allowed me to take risks that aren't usually seen in a government system. I am constantly looking for new resources and technology that will enhance the work we are doing.

My advise to wellness practitioners hoping to become leaders in the field is to make sure they have a connection with their customers. Too often in the wellness world, we think we know what our customers will enjoy or what will excite them; however, often that is not the case. Connecting regularly with employees is a vital component to the success of any wellness program.


Two innovative solutions we have implemented are our deskercise program and the implementation of the Avanti Markets.

In conversations with Maricopa County employees, we learned that time is at a premium (not unlike other employees elsewhere). We have tried to push the concept of 10-minute bouts of activity. This concept sparked the creation of our Deskercise program which includes a train the trainer opportunity so that a worksite can meet regularly to implement safe and easy exercises that will allow them to move without taking much time our of their workday.

With the data from our biometric screenings, we located a particular area within the County that had very few options of healthier eating. Partnering with our Department of Economic Security, we learned that a convenience-store, self-checkout vending option was available to the County. To date, four Markets have been implemented offering healthier options at worksites that previously did not had these options.

The one program that has had the most significant impact has been the implemented the Wellness Champion Program: This program has vastly improved communication of wellness resources, has created a grass-roots approach to advocate for wellness in the Departments. The fact that we asked Directors to nominate their Wellness Champion gave the program and person some credibility internally to implement changes to the culture. The Wellness Champion Program has definitely helped to increase participation across the board on all wellness-related resources.

Compelling Vision

Maricopa County Wellness will move wellness forward by changing it's incentive package. Currently, we offer participation based incentives. We are hoping that by offering process and outcome-based incentives that we will further increase participation in our resources and we will show a trend change in our health care costs.

You can vote as often as you like. You may vote once per hour per entry.
When you come back, use the search function to find this entry.
Flag as Inappropriate

You can vote as often as you like. You may vote once per hour per entry.
When you come back, use the search function to find this entry.


profile photo Posted by
Admin D.
WELCOA DISH Admin. View Admin D.'s Profile.
Post a Comment

Comments 0

Comments are in order of newest to oldest

Post a Comment