Wellness initiative could gain new participation incentives

Leadership looks to established program for ideas

The University of Colorado’s Health and Welfare Trust is exploring ways to enhance its wellness initiative and is examining other programs that similar entities offer to employees.

E. Jill Pollock, vice president of Employee and Information Services, told members of the University of Colorado Staff Council during its videoconference Dec. 15 that she, Lilly Marks, vice president for Health Affairs and executive vice chancellor Anschutz Medical Campus, and Jim Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and director of the Center for Human Nutrition, recently met with a representative of the Cleveland Clinic to discuss initiatives that have worked for the clinic.

“The Cleveland Clinic has 40,000 employees and a more mature wellness initiative than we do,” Pollock said. “They’ve had a wellness program for seven years so this is an opportunity to learn from what’s been successful.”

The clinic offers weight management, nutrition counseling and smoking cessation programs free to participating employees. It also offer deals for those who use the Cleveland Clinic’s or partner exercise facilities. Since the plan has been instituted, Pollock said, the clinic has witnessed a dramatic increase in use of the program. One participation incentive is an insurance premium rate reduction.

While some in the industry believe people who pay for part of a wellness program are more likely to continue participation, Cleveland saw a spike in involvement when the program was offered at no cost to employees.

Last year the University of Colorado Hospital, which is a member of the Health Trust, offered incentive payments of $120 for those employees who participated in a heath assessment and biometric screening. The participation rate in the UCH wellness program increased to 53.2 percent from 18 percent, Pollock said.

Possible incentives the CU wellness program might include in the future: partnerships with exercise franchises such as 24 Hour Fitness, or discounted premiums for those people who can show they’ve visited a wellness facility a certain number of times per month.

This fall, the university initiated Be Colorado, a systemwide, comprehensive wellness program offered to participants of the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust. The first phase of the program offered free online health assessments to eligible individuals.

Council members said some employees still are concerned that wellness information obtained through the university program could be used to identify them. But Pollock adamantly disagreed, saying laws prohibit employers from viewing employee medical records or other medical information.

“We are using any participation data to grow a healthy program, so those fears should be put to rest,” she said. “As an employer, I would never see anybody’s name. The data we see are all numbers.”

In addition, Pollock gave these updates:

  • Colorado Weigh, the weight-loss program that began on the Anschutz Medical Campus, will be rolled out on all CU campuses this spring.
  • The role of the University Benefits Advisory Board (UBAB) will be clarified. Years ago, university health insurance was self-funded, but after a series of poor audits, that initiative was ended. In 2000, UBAB was formed to provide an opportunity for employee input as the university transitioned to third-party insurers. But with the return of self-funding and establishment of the Health and Wellness Trust and the transparency of its reports and financials, said Pollock, the mission and goals of UBAB are less clear. Pollock said that in the past three years, she has not received reports or recommendations from the board. Because the university policy that established the board is under review this year, she said, it is the perfect time to reassess the board and its mission.
  • A revision of the tuition benefits policy will allow employees to transfer the nine-credit-hour annual benefit to dependents. A draft of the policy, which still is under review, is online at, under Human Resources, “5024-Education Assistance Program.”

In other matters:

Carla Johnson, Staff Council chair, said she will research the number of hours other state entities and universities provide employees for volunteer service. The Boulder campus allows employees 16 hours of volunteer leave, but other campus policies are less definitive. Once the research is finished, staff council will draft a recommendation that would make volunteer hours consistent across all campuses.

Dan Montez, director of the Office of Policy and Efficiency, gave an update about the office’s efforts to review policies and eliminate or revise those that no longer are applicable as well as increase System Administration efficiency. The office’s website allows those interested to view policies under review and that those that have been rescinded or revised. It also lets employees make recommendations for efficiency as well as look at status reports on recommendations. Beginning this year, Montez said, units within System Administration will be evaluated to find ways to promote continuous improvement.