Posted by: BeneFIT Corporate Wellness
Date: November 25, 2020
After reaching 198 pounds with high cholesterol, and suffering two gout attacks in the course of five years, Kevin Davis, Senior Benefits Consultant, Vice President at Univest Insurance, LLC, knew he had to do something. His company’s self-insured health insurance plan offered nutrition counseling as a wellness benefit. However, after trying it, Kevin felt he needed more, and helped his company engage an independent wellness provider with a comprehensive program. As a result, at age 49, he “feels great physically and mentally.”
Kevin was on vacation with his family in 2018 when he had his second attack of gout, a form of arthritis that causes painful swelling in the joints. He was in so much pain, he couldn’t do the activities they had planned, couldn’t go on walks, and felt very discouraged. He thought about his own father and mother, who were both in poor health, sedentary, and medication-dependent. He said to himself, “If this is going to be what the rest of my life looks like, I’ve got to make some changes,” and decided at that moment to get serious about nutrition and stress.
Recognizing that he had crossed over into a “new normal,” Kevin started a food journal that very weekend. He wanted to pay more attention to what he was eating, and be held accountable for the choices he was making. He was on the road a lot, eating what was available, and often ended up eating foods with lots of calories. This got him involved in Univest’s nutrition counseling program, offered through the company’s health insurance provider.
While the insurer-provided program gave him a jumpstart, Kevin found that he wanted more than just help with calories. He understood that his gout attacks had as much to do with stress as they did with diet, and that wasn’t addressed in the nutrition counseling program. He also wanted a less rigid approach. “We had a ‘do and don’t’ list,” he says. “They would tell us to ‘eat rice cakes, not cheeze-its,’ for example. Well, cheese-its taste better. When you’re simply told what to do, you start to think it’s not worth the trade-off.”
As a member of Univest’s internal wellness committee, Kevin has exposure to health and wellness providers that assist with many of Univest’s clients. One of those is BeneFIT Corporate WellnessSM, a division of Populytics, a Lehigh Valley population health management firm. BeneFIT health educators and health coaches often attend wellness committee meetings, and Kevin agrees with their perspective: that leadership needs to drive a healthy company culture.
He had previously worked with Populytics on a presentation about self-insured companies. The presentation drove in the important point that employers with self-insured health plans are accountable for their employees’ health and wellness. When an employer chooses to fund its own risk, a wellness strategy is an absolute must to enable success. “I figured, since I promote the importance of a self-insured company having a wellness strategy for employees, I should walk the talk,” he says.
Kevin also viewed a webinar featuring stress reduction and mental health, presented by BeneFIT and Preferred EAP, the behavioral health counseling arm of Populytics. He says that “filled in the gaps” for him. “It was the whole person focus that convinced me,” he says. “Some wellness companies are strong in one particular area. I was seeking a partner that offered a comprehensive well-being approach that assisted with not only physical health and nutrition, but also the mental health aspects that drive them. If you only have a partial service, you can easily get to the rice cakes/cheese-its moment and lose your motivation.”
Univest’s decision to purchase BeneFIT’s health coaching program was a huge step in Kevin’s transformation, and brought a new focus on health to his company. He started working with his own health coach in telephone sessions several times a month. He took part in wellness challenges, tracked his physical activity, monitored and improved his diet, and learned ways to reduce stress. “BeneFIT’s coaches are clinically trained, so I knew I would have a good encounter,” says Kevin. “Plus, it’s a real person you’re talking to, who is giving you timely and appropriate feedback.”
He felt the non-prescriptive approach was key. “I wanted to be sure I was expending all this effort in a way that would be successful,” says Kevin. For example, regarding his physical activity, he and his health coach talked about increasing his minimum number of steps from 10,000 to 12,000. They decided it was best not to. If Kevin didn’t make the new minimum, he would feel like he failed. Whereas, if the minimum stays at 10,000, everything above that is a win.
He’s also pleased that the sessions are easy to manage virtually. “This is a better solution for a busy executive in these current times. We may not be going back to an in-person model anytime soon,” he says. Kevin adds that the convenience is a reason to utilize BeneFIT’s online wellness portal. Incentives also help. This is supplemented by the incentive program that BeneFIT helped Univest set up to align with the portal, where employees get points for completing wellness tasks and goals. Univest awards “You Earned It” points for active participation in the wellness challenges. Those points can be redeemed for gift cards, but they also can be non-wellness related.
Kevin started his health coaching program with four primary goals. Here’s a look at how he’s doing:
Today, Kevin continues to keep himself accountable with his coach. He has not had any more gout attacks, his cholesterol numbers are down, and his cholesterol medication has been cut in half. He went from 198 pounds in May 2020 to 165 pounds in Sept. 2020. He feels much less lethargic than before, doesn’t rely on caffeine to get himself going, and doesn’t have headaches anymore, which he believes were attributed to his diet. Kevin says his head is clear, and he is motivated to stay healthy. He focuses on things to look forward to, and practices mindfulness exercises so he can truly be in the moment.
“I know what I need to do now to maintain it,” says Kevin. “I give full credit to BeneFIT and Preferred EAP for helping me improve my physical and mental health.”
To learn how your company can provide complete physical and mental health that transcends your insurer’s wellness offerings:
*Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.