3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2010


Rose K. Gantner is a diplomate member of the American College of Wellness and senior director of product development and innovation for UPMC Health Plan. The organization, which is the second-largest health insurer in western Pennsylvania, is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and is one of the nation’s top-ranked health systems.

Q. How do you develop a wellness program?

Many employers recognize there is a direct correlation between good health and good business strategies to promote healthier lifestyles for their employees. Good wellness programs need to include five major parts: assessment, design, communications, implementation and evaluation. We also encourage what is known as the AMSO model — awareness, motivation, skills and opportunity. Buy-in by senior leadership in terms of commitment, support and participation in wellness and health productivity programs is essential. Also, establish a wellness committee and have some ambassadors at the local level to encourage and motivate others.

Q. How do you get employees to buy in and use this program?

Promote, promote, promote. Start with a letter from the CEO discussing this decision and how he or she sees this as a win-win partnership for both the company and its employees to maintain or improve their health while containing costs. Participation will improve if there is a small incentive reward, such as cash or promotional items. Possible communication methods include payroll stuffers, postcards, tent cards, e-mail blasts, newsletters, fliers, posters and even materials on a bulletin board in break rooms.

Q. What are some ways to monitor a wellness program for results?

First, you can measure participation and engagement rates, completion of a program and/or service, numbers and percentages of those who met some wellness initiatives and see their physician once per year, have a flu shot, or complete a gap in medical care based on age and gender. You can study outcomes, such as, ‘Did they reduce their BMI? What is the percentage of weight loss? Has there been an increase in nutritional habits?’ More elaborate cohort studies can compare year one to year two with the same participants regarding biometric screenings and how many people with identified risk factors went to their physician, got on medication, increased their physical exercise or quit smoking.