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Making the Case for Normal

by Thomas Bognanno

Normal Illinois had more than a normal health problem on their hands.

Normal, Illinois—larger than a village but smaller than a city. With its Middle American charm and an award for being one of the top ten towns in the Midwest for Millennials to work, Normal is a small-town success. But, Normal still experiences the same pains and stresses of rising health care costs for its government employees just like a big city like New York or Los Angeles.

Workplace wellness knows no geographic location—it’s necessary among many employee populations worldwide and a concern for most public and private sector companies. For the Town of Normal, they decided to partner with Advocate BroMenn Medical Center to start a wellness strategy from the ground up.

We sat down with Krista White, Wellness Specialist, who shared how to overcome the overwhelming nature of implementing a wellness program from scratch, drawing from her work with the Town of Normal.

CWM: What were some key steps you took to start a wellness strategy for the Town of Normal employees?

KW: The wellness partnership began in August 2006 between the Town of Normal and BroMenn Medical Center. This partnership began with the simple premise of enhancing the Town’s employee benefits by providing consistent on-site wellness services and resources for the Town’s approximately 560 union and non-union employees, spouses and retirees as an enhanced benefit.

BroMenn Medical Center’s wellness department administers the Live Well wellness initiative and staffs the facility with a wellness specialist 20 hours a week. Live Well is a comprehensive wellness program offering preventative health measures, individual and team incentive programs, weekly health education, and one-on-one consultations coupled with return on investment (ROI) tracking.

The first step in starting the Live Well program was conducting a needs and interest survey. Accompanying the survey was a biometric screening offered to the employees that recorded data essential to take the next step of the process. Identifying risks and determining appropriate interventions is key in leading the wellness strategy.

When we fast-forward to today, we find that the partnership enhanced the culture of wellness in the Town of Normal with the proof in the data. Over the years, the following data has been tracked:

  • Participation levels: In 2014, 99.3 percent of employees participated in one or more wellness program
  • Health risk data: Since 2006, the percent of individuals at risk for diabetes has decreased by 18.8 percent
  • Insurance claims: The Town has seen approximately $551,504 in cost savings from improvements seen in identified risk categories

CWM: Once you identified the risks, what were your next steps, and did you include any incentives?

KW: Once we identified the risks from the initial biometric screening, we introduced education and programming tailored according to the identified risk areas. This customized approach  to wellness strategy has allowed for sustainable and measurable programs throughout the partnership.

CWM: What were some specific resources you provided employees participating in the program?

KW: One of the key resources offered to employees, spouses, and retirees is the health risk appraisal screening conducted once a year. Participation in these screenings is voluntary, but successful participation will qualify them to receive a discounted rate on their insurance premiums. This screening includes lipid profiles, full chemistry panels and a complete blood count.

As an additional resource to the individual, any out-of-range values received from the screening receive a follow-up phone call from a nurse specialist. This phone call includes a recommendation to make an appointment with their primary care physician to review the results.

The employees also have access to the Diabetes Management Program. This allows employees and dependents diagnosed with diabetes to volunteer in an ongoing program where they will meet with a Certified Diabetic Educator three times a year. The goal of the Diabetes Management Program is twofold, to help employees and dependents learn to manage their disease and to reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. Employees also receive quarterly wellness programs, individual and group incentive programs, presentations, demonstrations, and environmental support.

CWM: What makes your wellness program successful?

KW: There are four key concepts we have found that, when used collectively, produces a successful wellness program. These four concepts include:

  • Leadership support and engagement: The Town has consistently shown immense support for any resource that benefits the health and well-being of their employees.
  • Investment of time and resources: Allowing the presence of an on-site wellness specialist 20 hours per week.
  • Culture: The environment and wellness culture Normal has created significantly increased the confidence and accomplishments of employees.
  • Appropriate use of incentives: Using monetary incentives when appropriate increases the likelihood of success for the employees.

CWM: Is your wellness strategy a year round effort or focused on specific times of the year?

KW: The wellness strategy is a year round effort to provide employees, spouses, and retirees with a comprehensive wellness plan. This allows for improved health and well-being along with increased productivity and presenteeism, and decreased absenteeism. The Town’s workforce receives the education, skill sets, and support needed to create a healthy workplace environment. When added up, these four concepts equal healthier employees, which in turn reduces and stabilizes healthcare spending for the Town of Normal.

Using the information above, it’s show that from January 2012 to December 2014, the Town of Normal has seen approximately $551,504 in cost savings from improvements in these categories.

CWM: As a specialist in wellness, what advice would you give to other professionals looking to do something similar as you have done in the Town of Normal?

KW: My advice for other professionals looking to create a wellness program is as follows:

  • Identify risks
  • Create measurable and sustainable programs
  • Educate employees
  • Measure success
  • Celebrate achievements; big or small—celebrate them all!

About the Author

Thomas G. Bognanno, President & CEO of Community Health Charities, works with a network of nearly 2,000 trusted health charities across the country. The organization leverages health nonprofits with the overall wellness and philanthropic strategies in companies – private and public sector – to engage employees in health initiatives to raise awareness and critical funds for their charities – www. healthcharities.org.

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