ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Teri Palmer

Stepping Beyond Medical And Moving To Human Capital Risk Management

Teri joined PayneWest Insurance—a top-10 nationally ranked insurance agency—as its first ever Health Management Consultant in August 2011 to partner with employer groups to develop health management programs to contain health care costs. Teri brings with her 22 years experience from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) where she worked in Corporate Planning, Compliance and Ethics, Training, Human Resources, and as that company's first Health and Wellness Management Specialist.

While with BCBSMT, Teri was responsible for the design, implementation, and maintenance of effective wellness and ergonomic activities aimed at improving employee health and well-being. This included researching, analyzing, and evaluating wellness-program best practices and integrating them into the employee wellness rewards program.

Teri designed and implemented the Well with Blue Rewards Program, the company's first rewards credit program, in 2006. She was also instrumental in the development of a proactive ergonomics program that decreased BCBSMT's annual workers’ compensation premium from $600,000 to $200,000.

Today, Teri consults with various employers groups throughout a four-state footprint and customizes wellness programs to fit each employers' needs and objectives.

Teri also designed the internal PayneWest Healthy Together program for its 650 member employer group.

Teri’s passions in life are the love of her family, the love of animals, and the love of health and fitness in all shapes and sizes.


I attended Pennsylvania State University and Carroll College studying Liberal Arts, Business Administration, and Finance. I am a Certified Wellness Program Manager (Chapman, Level II) and completed Level 8 certifications for Well Workplace University (Wellness Council of America) along with being a WELCOA faculty member. I am also a member of the Montana Worksite Health Promotion Coalition.  

I decided to go into the field of corporate health and wellness after spending ten years as a certified IDEA fitness instructor and seeing first-hand how even small steps toward healthy choices could change people’s lives.


Besides my day-to-day relationships with my clients, and partnering with them to grow their programs, one of my most rewarding and life-changing events was when I was heading up the Well with Blue Program for Blue Cross and Blue Shield and brought in Robert Sweetgall, a motivational speaker who has walked across the United States seven times. 

I organized presentation events for the Blue Cross colleagues, senior citizens, the local hospital, the middle-schools, and even sponsored an open event for the entire community. Mr. Sweetgall's message was simple yet so effective:  We are all born with one heart and two feet – and for good reason. 

Mr. Sweetgall then explains that the problem is, as we fail to use our feet, our hearts begin to fail, which is the case for 2,300 Americans who die from cardiovascular disease each day. That’s one death every 37 seconds. 

Yet, it need not be that way. One key cardio-cure sits right under our nose.  It’s called – Your Two Feet.  By simply returning to our ancestors’ active walking lifestyle, our hearts and entire cardio-respiratory system begin to strengthen.  

His message was simple and touched the young to the old. I brought Mr. Sweetgall to speak to various groups and watched him transform lives. He taught groups how to Nordic walk and, throughout the community, I started seeing employees, senior citizens, and people from all walks of life, Nordic walking throughout the streets of Helena.

One of my Blue Cross employees joined in on one of the sessions and to date he's lost 100 pounds and is now a Zumba instructor at the local health club.  It all started with the Well with Blue program and Mr. Sweetgall's inspiration to just start moving.  While I can't place a dollar amount on that single lifestyle turnaround, such behavior change, culture change, and health-status improvement can clearly become catching in any community.

As for the clients I am working with, every year we together to identify risk reductions within their employee group and chart the dollars saved from moving from hypertensive to normal, from pre-diabetic to normal, and more.

Every client I work with is introduced to the seven Benchmarks and it becomes part of the planning—and the crucial evaluation—process. Our plans are focused on CEO support; discovering employee wants and needs; establishing a mission, goals and objectives; branding the program; creating wellness committees to keep the program in the forefront, and continued evaluation on the wellness interventions in place.  

For me, the best news is that my work is being recognized.  This year PayneWest’s Healthy Together program received the Gold award from the Montana Worksite Health Promotion Coalition.  The recognition was one of only eight awarded in Montana and, best of all, several of the other winners were PayneWest clients I assisted.

My overall philosophy I share with CEOs and their employees is that improving just one behavior not only saves dollars but, most importantly, it save lives!   


For the past five years I've been a member of the Montana Worksite Health Promotion Coalition, which allows me to engage and collaborate with wellness professionals throughout the State.  The Coalition’s award system recognizes employers for their achievements in worksite wellness.    

I actively participate in local and regional 5k’s, 10k’s, and half-marathons.  I can be seen on a regular basis at our local health club.  

WELCOA provides me excellent ongoing support and education around the current wellness industry and is my number one resource.  It is so important to stay in touch with the ever-changing field and legislation.   

My advice to wellness practitioners would be to continue to build a culture of health by investing in organizational human capital—an employer’s number one investment.  Investment in one's workers' long-term health eventually eliminates the need for an expensive, expansive marketing campaign - the workforce becomes one's company's best marketing team!


Wellness is dynamic and needs are different among employers, therefore in order to stay ahead of the wellness industry you need to be constantly looking for state-of-the-art programs.   The PWI Healthy Together program has been a great test pilot for various programs before introducing to the market. 
With that in mind, one innovative program I developed, after completing the WELCOA self-care summit in 2011, is a self-care campaign that could be customized based on industry challenges.  Since then, I have implemented several self-care campaigns with various clients in our footprint.  The overall responses from participants when surveyed is the program made them become better informed health consumers.   

Others examples would include development of the PWI health management program package for clients, financial wellness certification, and bringing in guest speakers to the Coalition and the Assurex wellness committee to introduce new and innovative ideas.


An emergent threat to the wellness industry is ACA and the possibility that employers might look at eliminating employee benefits.  This could also be an opportunity.   Couple that with frenzied legislative issues on discrimination that differ from ACA protocols, is cause for discomfort among employers trying to the do the right thing.    

Our greatest opportunity is that wellness is now at the forefront.  Employers want to keep their most important asset—their workers, their human capital—healthy.   It is just the right thing to do.   

I hope in the next five years, by remaining credible, sensible, and trustworthy, that we've grown  beyond wellness and toward its logical progression to a total risk management process. This will require collaborating and growing together as dedicated wellness professionals.  I see WELCOA as being the foundation for the evolution of a healthy American workforce and setting the pace for innovation and guidance.   

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