Participation Is Key to Wellness Program’s Success


According to a 2009 At a Glance report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “chronic diseases are the most common and costly of all health problems, but they are also the most preventable. Four common, health-damaging, but modifiable behaviors—tobacco use, insufficient physical activity, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol use—are responsible for much of the illness, disability, and premature death related to chronic diseases.”

A poster welcomed employees to Dartmouth’s Wellness Fair in October 2012. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

This same report indicates that more than 75 percent of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.

Melissa Miner, director of Health Promotion and Wellness Programs, likes to quote these statistics when she talks about the Wellness Initiative, which has built on emerging health promotion and preventative care models from other industries, including academic peers, and created a program unique to Dartmouth. The goal is a healthier faculty and staff and sustainably affordable and comprehensive health coverage.

“The good health of our Dartmouth community plays a vital role in our quality of life and success as an institution,” says Dartmouth President Carol L. Folt. “As we continue to contribute in leading ways, it is imperative that we take care of ourselves—for each of us and our families, for our students, for our alumni, and for our greater community.”

The Dartmouth Outing Club takes members of the Dartmouth community on a snowshoeing experience on the Hanover Golf Course. (Photo by Corinne Arndt Girouard)

But the key to all these benefits is broad employee participation in the initiative by March 22. (The original deadline was extended from the end of February to March 22.)

“We’re trying to get our health assessment and biometric health screening efforts wrapped up so we can learn more about our population’s health needs, particularly in areas where lifestyle modification can lead to positive health outcomes.  Once we identify our key priorities we can continue to work collaboratively across our institution to influence the change needed to improve the health of our Dartmouth community,” Miner says.

Right now, the program is short of its goal of 60 percent eligible employee participation, says Miner. The push is on to hit the numbers, she said, because having more participants is central to developing a baseline for the health needs of the community.

The Wellness Program will evaluate aggregated data from each of the baseline initiatives and compare it with aggregated data from benefits claims and the Dartmouth Health Connect practice, to mold the Wellness offerings to the unique needs of Dartmouth staff and faculty.

The current wellness campaign includes cash incentives—$100 for the health assessment and $50 each for biometric health screenings and for meeting at least twice with a health coach. Those incentives are still available and Miner says the Wellness program is ready and willing to work with department heads to make these offerings more accessible.

Participation as of the beginning of February:

  • More than 1,100 health assessment completions
  • More than 1,500 biometric health screenings
  • Of the 655 employees who signed up for health coaching, 221 have had appointments
“We are thrilled with the success thus far, but we are working to double our numbers by the end of this month,” Miner says.
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