ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Michele Hunnicutt

Results-oriented, highly experienced & passionate health promotion professional

I'm a passionate, strategic and innovative health promotion professional currently working for Alliant Insurance Services, Inc., the 11th largest broker/consultant in the U.S. I've been with Alliant for 15 months as their Health & Productivity Consultant. I work with all our clients to build results oriented wellness programs. I'm also in charge of the development, implementation and evaluation of the Alliant employee wellness program in Houston. I have been in the wellness field for over 19 years and have led both internal employee wellness programs as well directed a comprehensive corporate wellness program consisting of 500 clients including sales, development, implementation and evaluation of services and programs. Alliant has over 1,600 employees in 51 offices in 20 states. My positions prior to Alliant include the Director of Wellness Services for the Houston Methodist Hospital System and Wellness Center Director for ExxonMobil Midwest Region and Joliet Refinery.

Professional Development
I received my Bachelor's degree in Health Promotion from Northern Illinois University in May 1995 and began my pursuit of helping individuals and organizations thrive through healthy living, energy, purpose and a supportive workplace environment and culture. During my internship with Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) in the spring of 1995, I also became involved with the Wellness Council of Illinois and the Blueprint for a Well Workplace process (7 benchmarks). I began using the WELCOA process in addition to my education in 1995 and have been using it ever since. I have recently re-taken the beginner course as well as the advanced course to obtain the certification and have become a WELCOA Faculty member. In 2007 while working as the manager of a large employee wellness and corporate wellness program, I decided to pursue my M.S. Degree in Health Promotion through Nebraska Methodist College. Through my 19-year tenure as a health promotion professional, I have acquired a variety of different certifications to advance my knowledge, skills and capabilities. Besides WELCOA, the ones I value the most are my Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), Certified Worksite Wellness Program Consultant and Certified Wellness Culture Coach. I have been extremely fortunate to have been instrumental in the achievement of the WELCOA Well Workplace Gold Award in 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2006 for the programs I have led.  In addition, I was instrumental in achieving 2nd place as Houston’s healthiest employer and being awarded the Paragon award for a data driven wellness program in 2013.  On a personal level, I was bestowed the Catherine Wotherspoon Award for Commitment and Excellence in Health Promotion in 2008.  Besides formal continuing education opportunities, I read a minimum of 1 book and/or journal a week to stay abreast of trends, research and best practices in addition to broadening my knowledge, skills and critical thinking in a variety of related topics.

Demonstrated Success
For the comprehensive hospital system wellness program that I led for 8.5 years, we had a 5.2% risk reduction in 2010 and a 5.05% risk reduction in 2011 in a cohort population of 7,448 employees resulting from multiple programs and interventions.  The main areas of concern for the hospital system were physical activity, nutrition, weight, stress, and diabetes.  Two of our most successful programs were wellness coaching and the Well Managed Diabetes Management Program.  Both were in-person coaching programs and focused on the whole person.  For the lifestyle coaching program, 86% (154 out of 159) participants eliminated 1 risk factor and 51% made improvements but did not eliminate risk.  The average weight lost was 10 lbs. per person and 61% made improvements in their quality of life as measured by the Pearson Quality of Life Inventory.  

For the Diabetes Program, overall risk for the population decreased by 5.2% as measured by high glucose levels.  The percentage of employees diagnosed with diabetes increased by 1% from 2007 to 2011.  We expected an increase as we identified employees and encouraged interventions if needed.   At the conclusion of the program year, the average HbA1c decrease was .97 per person and 43.83% of participants had an HbA1c below 6.5.  The average weight lost was 10.11 pounds and 45% completed the Diabetes Standards of Care. Seventy risks were eliminated in total; 81% of participants eliminating at least 1 risk.

My whole approach to building a health and well-being strategy involves the 7 benchmarks process.  I have re-framed the process into four steps: Discovery and Assessment, Design and plan, implement and engage and evaluate and evolve.  I use all 7 benchmarks in the process but the 4 steps helps my clients and myself understand that it’s a continuous process that should be done yearly.  I include capturing CEO support, creating wellness teams, collecting data, crafting an operating plan, choosing appropriate interventions, creating a supportive environment and culture and evaluating outcomes.  I also focus on the total value of health on individuals and organizations and am striving to help create thriving employees and workplaces.

As a leader in the field, I strive to live with integrity, high energy and passion and use these characteristics to help improve the lives of my family, friends, coworkers as well as the employees and I companies I work with.  I’m focusing on helping people and companies thrive through health, well-being, energy management and performance for the betterment of the community in which I live and work. I am dedicated to perfecting my knowledge, skills and abilities to assist me in positively impacting lives.  I have had the privilege to work with over 90 health promotion professionals and provide leadership, mentoring and reciprocal learning.  The relationships and opportunities have been extremely valuable and rewarding.  I am also extremely grateful to have learned from some of the best and brightest founders of our field and owe a tremendous amount to each of them for sharing their wisdom, experience and passion for promoting health and well-being in the workplace and assisting me in my growth and development as a health promotion professional.  The conferences, pre-conference workshops, certifications, webinars etc. have been invaluable and I encourage others to embrace the consistent pursuit of learning and perfecting.  

The one thing that I have done differently, face-to-face wellness coaching as part of a worksite wellness program, is now mainstream however back in 2005, it wasn’t quite that way.  In addition, taking the face-to-face wellness coaching approach and applying it to diabetes management was also unique within a worksite wellness program.  The program allowed for quarterly HbA1c tests, monthly weight and blood pressure checks, Diabetes standards of care education and tracking, annual pre and post wellness skills list, creating a personal wellness vision and much more in addition to the lifestyle coaching.  The Diabetes risk for the population decreased by 5.2%.  At the conclusion of the program year, the average HbA1c decrease was .97 per person and 43.83% of participants had an HbA1c below 6.5.  The average weight lost was 10.11 lbs. and 45% completed the Diabetes Standards of Care and the .  Seventy risks were eliminated in total; 81% of participants eliminating at least 1 risk.  

Another innovative program was the Well Powered living program focusing on energy, purpose and passion.  The goal of the program was to help people understand that energy was the necessary thing to fuel their purpose and passion.  Participants learned how lifestyle habits helped or hindered energy and thus their personal effectiveness.  The program had a 99% satisfaction rating.

Compelling Vision
I think the biggest threats the health promotion industry faces over the next five years are the competitiveness, divisiveness and public arguing amongst professionals.  I think there is enormous opportunity in evolving the paradigm to focus on the total value of health and well-being in terms of employee engagement, productivity and individual and organizational performance.  We need to move beyond medical and pharmacy costs and ROI.  I believe a larger focus on creating the conditions in which people will motivate themselves to make positive behavior changes to enhance their health, well-being and personal effectiveness will lead the way.  I see this being done through leadership, culture, celebration, recognition, programs, engagement and benefit design.  I think we all need to be grateful to the founders of our field and celebrate how far we’ve come and continue to find better ways to promote vitality.  It’s time to unite around our purpose and vision and positively impact people and organizations.

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Good to see a hospital system wellness program and the emphasis on diabetes. I like the idea of tracking participant satisfaction.

Daniel C. on 11/10/2014

Michele, first I want to say that the results you outline for your comprehensive hospital system wellness program are outstanding! I assume you must have entered very late in to the contest as you certainly rate very high from what I can see. Secondly, I 100% agree with you that a big road block in wellness promotion is politics and egos among professionals. I also believe that a lot of organizations miss the opportunity to share in a larger vision to look beyond their walls. Anyway, great job and keep up the good work!

Brian J. on 10/28/2014

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