Chris Ceniti knows that every wellness program can't replicate what's happening at the West DePere School District. But there's plenty that can be learned from it.
Ceniti, a Health Promotion Advisor for WEA Trust, has been working with the central Wisconsin school district on a wellness program that he calls "in the top 10 percent" of the country.
On-Site Clinic Helps Manage CostsA key reason for the program's success is the on-site clinic the district opened at the high school about 16 months ago. The facility is home to a nurse, nurse practitioner and licensed athletic trainer. It provides free primary care and health advice to employees of the district and dependents covered on their health plans.
"Twenty-five years ago, on-site clinics were a real mainstay, and we're starting to see a comeback," Ceniti said. "The primary objective is to help manage and control healthcare costs."
Key CriteriaThe clinic meets two of the major criteria that Ceniti believes are vital to the success of a wellness program: 1) it uses a results-based approach, and 2) it demonstrates the commitment of the district's leadership to a wellness culture.
Many of the basic wellness programs in practice today are what Ceniti labels "activity-based." They focus on awareness campaigns that often follow a theme-of-the-month model. While there's nothing wrong with those campaigns, the clinic allows for much more concrete work, Ceniti said.
In West DePere, employees get a biometric screening, take an online health assessment, receive consultation on their blood work and have access to health coaches for ongoing support. They see their doctors for "wellness certificates." The plan forces action and allows for measurable results. It's all voluntary, but participation is tied to lower employee contributions to their health care.
Employee Results are ConfidentialWhenever an on-site clinic opens, there is naturally some reluctance from employees who would rather not bring their personal lives to work. But Ceniti said those concerns tend to fade with time and education.
"One of the myths out there is that it's not confidential," he said. "These on-site clinics are held by the same regulations as community clinics. It's no different. Once people realize that, and that they get quality care there, it makes for a very positive experience."
While it takes a serious commitment to reach the level of the West DePere district, that shouldn't be a deterrent to employers looking to get started on their own path to wellness, Ceniti added. "You don't have to build a complex wellness program in order to start getting the benefits," he said. "But in this day and age, the 'do-nothing approach' is just not acceptable."