District Administration April 2017 - 44
Make wellness work
are at a higher risk for diabetes or heart
disease. So how do you design a wellness
program that appeals to them?
Solve real problems
Today the Polk County district supports an extensive wellness program, and
Zimmerman leads a six-person team of
health analysts and education specialists
who teach classes and provide one-onone coaching. But the county also faces
serious health challenges: Thirty-one
percent of adults are obese and 28 percent report getting no physical activity
outside of work, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2016
county health rankings. In 2012, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida was ranked
the seventh most obese metro area in the
country by Gallup.
Or, as Zimmerman puts it, this population lives and breathes sweet tea and
fried chicken-hard habits to break.
To be effective, the district's wellness
program had to address real problems.
So when officials learned just 6 percent
of age-eligible female employees were getting regular mammograms (which were
covered under the district's health insurance), they started in 2012 offering cancer screenings at schools in partnership
with Tampa Bay Mobile Mammography,
which provides the equipment and staff.
Five years later, the number of employees getting mammograms regularly had
climbed to 85 percent.
And participation in the district's diabetes management series-which comprises classes, exams and support groups
and has no co-pays on medication-
increased by 43 percent for the participants who had reported they followed
their medication schedules.
Polk County also holds classes on
diabetes prevention, tobacco cessation,
healthy aging and even financial management to help people cope with the stress
of having enough money for necessary
expenses. It can be a lot to take in, and
Zimmerman says her staff is constantly
trying to make people aware of the services at health fairs, on Facebook and
Steps to a healthier district
Find out what your employees want. Before you get started, ask employees
what they want out of their wellness program. Ways to save on out-of-pocket
costs? Incentives to get moving? Help managing chronic diseases? Make
sure the program matches their needs.
Think beyond healthy food and fitness. Would employees benefit more from
learning strategies to reduce stress or manage their time? Think about the
whole person and don't limit your wellness program to diet and exercise.
Be realistic. Even the best wellness program won't turn everyone into
marathon runners. That's OK. Look for small steps that are attainable and will
make a difference.
Make it easy to use. Time-consuming, complicated, hard-to-access programs
likely won't attract much interest. Keep ease of access at the forefront when
it comes to planning your wellness program.
Promote it. Ask yourself what's more likely to resonate, a mass email or a fiveminute presentation from a manager? Make sure employees know what is
available to them.
Get feedback. After a few months, check in with employees. What do they
like? What hasn't caught on? Always look for ways to improve.
44 April 2017
in a monthly newsletter-a recent story
featured a man who lost 45 pounds with
help from the wellness staff.
"Some people don't believe we should
be engaged in their health," Zimmerman
says. "For everyone who is perturbed, you
have a thousand more lined up who say 'I
really do appreciate what you do.'"
Make it (very) accessible
For the Poudre School District in Fort
Collins, Colorado, a comprehensive wellness program acts as a valuable recruiting
tool in a health-conscious state, says Ashley Schwader, the district's wellness manager. The 29,000-student district provides
employees with health and fitness assessments, access to exercise classes, mental
health services, and help for people with
In 2013 it added a walk-in health
clinic that is free for employees and
dependents on the district's health plan.
The facility, located in a nearby shopping
center, is open after school and on weekends. It is run in partnership with University of Colorado Health and staffed
by Associates in Family Medicine, a local
"Ease of access is huge," Schwader
says. "This has been just a phenomenal
way to remove barriers."
Clinic use has grown every year, as
have the savings. In October 2016, for
instance, the clinic logged about 740 visits from employees and their dependents
at a cost of about $73,900 to the district.
Based on the average cost of an office
visit and prescription at a primary care
provider, those 740 visits would have cost
$132,100 elsewhere, according to a district-commissioned report by University
of Colorado Health. Schwader says that
such savings have helped keep insurance
premium increases low in recent years.
"When you compare what our premiums are to other districts, we've been
able to keep those lower," she says. "We
know that investing in this will help us
save money in the long run."
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