Wellness coordinator urges KISD employees to take active role in managing health

04/21/2014 3:32 PM

04/21/2014 3:33 PM

Putting Keller school district employees in the driver’s seat in managing their own health is the primary goal of wellness coordinator Cari Freeland.

“Education is the most important component,” Freeland said. “In anything health related, ignorance is not bliss.

“I see it more as the employee being an advocate for themselves in their own health.”

Freeland, an employee of United Healthcare, the district’s health insurance provider, was brought in several months ago to work on-site with KISD staff members.

Her goal has been to visit all 39 campuses to talk with teachers, administrators and support staff members.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to wear a lot of hats in giving wellness and health information to staff,” Freeland said. “Some need extra help in finding a physical fitness activity that works for them, others want to know how about eating healthy on the go or managing a chronic condition.”

At staff meetings Freeland has talked about a new premium incentive for current health plan members.

Those who go for an annual physical and complete a confidential online health assessment can get a $20 a month credit for the 2015 plan year.

She also shows employees how to use a mobile application to check their current deductible and account balances, find local providers and view benefit information.

Another online tool estimates costs for services. For instance, a member can see what nearby facilities charge for an MRI and base their decision on whether they intend to use up their deductible or want to minimize out-of-pocket costs, Freeland said.

When she meets with staff members individually, she can take their blood pressure and compute their body mass index in addition to discussing personal areas of interest.

Kathleen Eckert, principal at Hillwood Middle School, said that Freeland came to a faculty meeting April 11 and returned to Hillwood April 14 to talk one-on-one with teachers during their lunch breaks.

A number of staff members said they were interested in saving $20 a month in premiums next year, Eckert said.

“I’ve got a married couple who can save $480 a year by getting a physical,” she said. “I’m happy that Keller is doing something proactive instead of reactive. Healthy teachers have more energy, and that benefits kids.”

Sheri Rich, director of employee benefits, said that the online health assessment will help Freeland design education programs.

All the data gathered is confidential and will be used in aggregate. For instance, if a certain percentage report having diabetes, human resources officials can ensure that managing diabetes is addressed.

“We’ll look for the top three or four health issues,” Rich said. “It just helps us plan what our employees need from us.”

Freeland said that the district’s health initiative “Keller Working On Wellness” (K-WOW) has a huge educational component and a practical motivational approach.

District officials offer Zumba classes, a popular aerobic dance fitness program, and fitness boot camps at several campuses throughout the school year.

“Those are really successful, but we still have a large population that says they don’t have time to spend an hour in a class,” Freeland said. “I try to help them see they can walk around for 15 minutes twice a day or take a few minutes to do exercises at their desk.”

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