The Well-Being Journal

The Gift of Giving

Jennifer Rudloff

With the holiday season quickly approaching, I find myself spending more time reflecting on the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me over the years. I’ve been fortunate in my life. I have wonderful friends and family who provide unwavering support, a job I love, and while I may have a short wish list, I truly have everything in the world that I really need.

As I was preparing to begin my Christmas shopping a couple of years ago, and gathering wishes from loved ones, I got a special request from my parents. They asked that rather than purchasing a gift, that instead I offer up my time and talents to help those less fortunate. Together, we would share the memories made and lessons learned on Christmas morning. My parents are gracious and wonderful people, so this request didn’t really surprise me, but it did make me stop for a moment and smile at their selflessness. This was the start of a new and wonderful tradition.

When I came to Healthways, I heard a similar story. Many years ago at Healthways, as the holiday preparations began, our colleagues asked Tom Cigarran that in lieu of buying gifts for colleagues they instead give that money to help those less fortunate. Tom happily agreed – and a Healthways tradition was born. Now, every year we all step away from our work for a few hours and go shopping together. This year, more than 500 colleagues each armed with an angel, loaded up their shopping carts with toys, coats, clothes, and books for some very special children at Youth Villages and McNeilly Children’s Center. Imagining the smiles across their faces on Christmas morning and knowing that we’re bringing joy and a show of love and compassion to the children who need it the most is wonderful. It brought out a child like joy in all of us. This one activity really does bring us closer as a Healthways family.

At Christmas, or any time during the year, it’s all too easy to take the simple things in life for granted. I can’t imagine not having clean clothes to wear, a roof over my head, being hungry and without food to eat, or worrying for my safety and that of ones I love. Unfortunately those are harsh realities for a number of Americans. Sadly, there are a lot of families struggling this holiday season: we know from the latest Well-Being Index findings that nearly 20% of Americans have difficulty affording food, and 10% of Americans report having trouble affording shelter, and there are many others who are struggling with other problems in their lives.

By helping those in need, you’re also helping yourself. Gallup did a survey in conjunction with the well-being index to determine how volunteerism impacts well-being… what they found was that around the holidays, or anytime during the year, there are a lots of personal benefits to volunteering. People who volunteered in the last 6 months experienced higher personal well-being across all domains than those who did not volunteer. Take a look at the chart below to see how volunteering impacts each area of well-being.

I’d like to challenge you and yours this holiday season to take a moment to count your blessings, and then think about how you can bestow one of them on someone else who needs it. Start a new tradition of your own - it’s sure to make your holidays happier.

Topics: volunteer Community Well-Being Index Helping Others Civic Engagement

Insiders: Blue Zones Project™

Jennifer Rudloff

According to the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, Iowa currently ranks as the 19th healthiest state in the nation. Although that puts Iowa in the top half, there is room for improvement. Today, Iowa scores well on emotional health, physical health and access to basics such as safe surroundings, financial resources, strong community and health care services. Progress needs to be made on healthy behaviors such as exercise and eating habits, as well as improving overall work environments.

Enter The Blue Zones Project: a public/private collaboration between Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways to help make Iowa #1 in the nation for well-being as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. In these video's John Forsyth, Chairman and CEO of Wellmark, and Dan Buettner, Author of Blue Zones, talk about this landmark initiative.

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Topics: Well-Being In the News Dan Buettner Health Community Well-Being Index Healthiest State Wellness Healthways Iowa Government Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Zones Project

Colleagues Care: Books for Africa

Jennifer Rudloff

Have you ever wondered what to do with all the books you have been collecting, especially from college? I wondered the same thing about 4 years ago when I went through my bookshelf during the spring-cleaning that we all love to accomplish yearly. In the process, I not only discovered multiple books from college where the school changed books every semester (leaving it up to me to keep it or sell it online with a huge loss), but I also found books I purchased for personal knowledge accumulating dust. Yikes!!!

At that moment I decided to send some of my college books to Ethiopia where the second edition of Microbiology is being used in most universities while outdated in United States due to newer released editions. I reached out to some individuals who were traveling to Ethiopia to take books with them, but it was difficult since there is a luggage weight limit. At the same time, sending two to three books at a time and locating a traveler became a challenge of its own. At some point, I even checked out international shipping prices but I found it to be too expensive. After couple of searches and conversations, I connected with a friend who has heard about an organization named Books For Africa; also known as BFA.

I immediately started looking up this organization and learned that they are a perfect destination for my “outdated” books. Incredibly, this organization actually collects, sorts, ships and distributes books in Africa. BFA has shipped over 1.9 million books to 21 African countries in 2011 and has shipped 24 million high-quality text and library books in 45 countries since 1988.

In 2007, I joined to support them in collecting and shipping any and all books that I can get my hands on to their warehouse in Georgia for BFA’s shipment to Africa. So if you are like me and have wondered or are wondering what to do with books, check out their website. You will create some extra space on your shelf, provide access to education for a long-term sustainable solution in Africa, and improve your well-being in the process.

Topics: Healthy Living Community Books for Africa Donate Community Service Education

Connecting Consumer Voice

Jennifer Rudloff

Man on BenchIf you were hoping to develop a program that would appeal to the interests of mac users, it’s unlikely that you’d turn to PC users for advice. The same principles apply with well-being improvement solutions: In order to develop engaging healthcare solutions we must turn to our end users and understand their attitudes and motivations. Enter Healthways Well-Being Voice™, a newly created, on-line community of over 500 working and retired healthcare consumers who express their opinions, ideas, and attitudes, describing behaviors and motivations for improving their overall health and wellness among other topics:

  • Employer benefit program structure, incentives, and rewards
  • The role of and importance of communications
  • Perceptions of existing and potential products, solutions or services as well as reactions to marketing and web content ideas

The research community fosters collaborative input from individuals at varying health risk levels who deal with any of a number of chronic conditions in areas such as emotional/behavioral health, diabetic/metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, as well as those dealing with overweight and/or obesity issues. This is one of the first on-line social communities in which all aspects of Well-Being are potentially discussed, providing rich qualitative understanding to consumers needs.

Recently, we’ve gathered and applied insights in the following areas:

  • Listening to consumer definitions of Well-Being in their own words, members discuss the important balance between physical and emotional health. People describe details to us about their views of happiness, prosperity and the important role of family, friends and enjoying the activities of their choice.
  • Members share personal stories, sometimes coupled with photos submitted from times in their lives when they took significant measures to improve their health and they detail of the factors that influenced them. This is providing Healthways added consumer perspectives about behavioral change, incentive insights and engagement that we apply into our mission to enhance Well-Being Improvement Solutions for our clients and guide the development of new markets.
  • Nearly all of our members are mentioning challenges in diet, adhering to medication, exercise regularity and for some, smoking cessation. We’re getting wonderful stories from community members. One member noted that in the years following his military service, he realized he had a tendency to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Once he returned to a more vigorous regiment of exercise, he found many health risks diminishing and his overall health improved. Another described how just a single flight of stairs resulted in shortness of breath which drove his own story of change. And another women described how the early loss of a parent resulted in personal motivation to slowly yet steadily move towards a healthier diet for her and her family.

Healthways certainly benefits from this community as we apply direct consumer voice and opinion into our suite of engaging solutions for total population health. But we’re not the only beneficiaries. The community members themselves are finding the interactions and introspections rewarding. As one commented, “It's great to find others on here where we share so much in common!” There’s no better way to learn than to learn from one another.

Topics: Market Research Well-Being Voice Business Performance Community Needs Assessment Healthways Well-Being Voice Well-Being Improvement Solutions Healthways Online Community Consumers Workplace Well-Being Wellness Program