The University of Louisville 's Get Healthy NOW Program
As health care costs continue to rise, more and more private and public companies are realizing that preventative care will help reduce overall health care costs. At the University of Louisville it is no different. In 2005, U of L implemented an employee wellness program called Get Healthy Now. It is designed to help employees understand their health status and take corrective action where needed – to the mutual benefit of the university and the employee.
After two years, the university is starting to see positive results, and employees are starting to share their success. Programmer analyst Mark Mullineaux is one. Mullineaux reports that Get Healthy Now enabled him “to pursue a better path to health.” Mullineaux has taken advantage of campus resources to take free programs that address healthy eating, heart disease risk reduction and stress management. He has begun to use campus workout facilities and to take aerobics classes. The program has supplemented talks with medical personnel and Internet research to find answers to questions.
“Over the last nine months,” Mullineaux said, “I have been able to reduce my weight by 20 pounds; I have greatly reduced the amount of prescription medicines I am taking. And, I had to purchase many new items of clothing as my waist has dropped more than four inches. I don''t know if I will ever make it to the recommended chart sizes, but I intend to continue trying.”
U of L''s Get Healthy Now program is effective for several reasons:
- First and foremost, we have a supportive administration that understands the long-term strategy and believes that investing in the good health of their employees is the right thing to do. There is no quick fix when it comes to health. People move through change gradually. Small steps – consistently applied, over time within a supportive, group environment – are the foundation for successful behavior change.
- Second, sustainability is important. “One-shot programs” that last six to eight weeks with no follow up, do very little to improve health status. U of L''s mission is to “build health within campus and community.” We are constantly evaluating the environment and looking for ways to integrate concepts that support employee wellness — for example, taking the stairs over the elevator. Physical improvements to the stairwell, motivational signs and music can increase stairwell use among building occupants at very little cost to an organization.
- Another thing to consider is that motivational programs can promote the integration of movement activities within the work day. At U of L, we started a pedometer walking program based on the national 10,000 steps-a-day program. Of all the motivational programs to date, it has had the highest participation rate. One employee e-mailed us a picture with the pedometer attached to her wedding dress. She wanted to make sure every step counted!
- Another component of a successful wellness program is “integration.” Wellness programs that work are integrated into the existing environment. Assess your current resources and determine how you can integrate various programs and initiatives that are already in place. Making sure all of the components work together is a key factor to success and will cultivate a “culture” of wellness.
Other Key Factors to Consider
Rewards or incentives should be based upon participation in the program, and everyone should have a chance to participate and earn the same reward. Dr. Steven Noeldner, one of the nation''s leading experts on workplace wellness, recently shared that “rewarding participation – rather than rewarding outcomes – is more beneficial and supportive for individuals who want to improve their health for the long term.”
U of L''s Get Healthy Now program has been successful, but we know there is more work to do. We are constantly evaluating the institutional effectiveness of our program and making modifications based on our findings. We want to do all we can to support employees in their quest to live a healthy life. At least 50 percent of people''s health status and associated health care costs are directly related to their lifestyle choices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Employers establish workplace wellness programs to help employees with these associated lifestyle costs and to help themselves. Program participation most often results in an increased quality of life, which in turn reduces use of a company''s health care benefit. The end result is cost savings to the employee and employer. This is a win-win strategy!
U of L''s health management program supports the good health of its employees and greater community in which we serve. We are committed to “building health within the campus and community” one person at a time!
Patricia Benson, M.Ed., completed her bachelor of science with a concentration in health promotion and master of education with a concentration in fitness and wellness at the University of Louisville . She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Louisville and is the director of Get Healthy Now, the university''s employee health management program. Her accomplishments include the formation of “LifeStyle Wellness,” a self-started company that was developed out of a desire to help others achieve life-long health goals. In 2000, she signed up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team-in-Training Program and raised more than $5,700 for cancer research by completing the London , England marathon. Patricia''s extensive background in health and wellness and vast network of health resources make her a leader in the industry!