Public school systems in the US employ more than 6.7 million people and are charged with one of the nation’s critical tasks – to prepare young people to become successful and productive citizens. Just as children need to be healthy and supported to perform to the highest ability, so do the school employees charged with educating them.

Wausau School District (WSD) in Wausau, WI, understands that every school employee contributes to the school mission and physical and emotional health concerns can lead to higher rates of absences and lower productivity. Read how this school district is ahead of the curve in providing a comprehensive wellness program to over 1,700 employees and their spouses on the health plan.

Interactive Health and WSD teach employees how to live a healthier life
While most school systems struggle to engage employees in wellness activities, WSD has managed to achieve greater than 70% participation among their employees on the health plan. Here’s the CliffsNotes on the secrets to their success.

Step one to better health is understanding one’s risks. WSD and Interactive Health implemented innovative strategies to increase engagement in annual health screenings. Launching the program the first week staff reports in for the school year and adding events on Saturdays to accommodate spouses have helped to boost participation.

Additionally, WSD puts wellness program information and health screening registration materials inside a free gift. In previous years, this gift has been a water bottle, a lunch bag, and a bento-style lunch container, all featuring the WSD Wellness Committee logo. Finally, adjustments to the incentive design to encourage participation in the health screenings have resulted in increased engagement.

The District also focuses on keeping the healthy employees healthy and rewards them for doing so. Employees of all risk levels are incentivized for participating in fun healthy activities and creating a personal health mission statement. One WSD wellness program participant describes it this way:

“A strong financial reward motivates both my partner and I to participate in the program and take actions throughout the year to improve our health. We’re busy people, and knowing these steps also improve our financial health helps keep wellness a top priority.”

So how do these strategies translate into better health? In 2018, 86% of participants met their personal health goal, 94% of those in the healthy range remained healthy and almost 50% of those with moderate health risks migrated to a healthy state in just one year.

Education policy is health policy. By positively influencing the behaviors and knowledge of educators and students, a recent study predicts America can expect an overall improvement in health status in the next 10 years. WSD is doing its part to achieve this goal and serves as a model for other school districts across the nation.

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