Creating a Culture of Health at the University of Louisville

Creating a culture of health at the University of Louisville

If you’re looking to instill a culture of health at your organization, a crucial first step is making a lasting change. But that first requires acknowledging that you have a challenge, and then taking action.

Our client, University of Louisville (UofL), started its employee wellness program as a health care cost containment strategy. Like many large organizations near the turn of the century, UofL was experiencing double-digit increases in employee health insurance rates. UofL President James L. Ramsey gave the directive to “Get Healthy Now,” which became UofL’s rallying cry—and ultimately the name of its employee wellness program.

UofL launched its “Get Healthy Now” employee wellness program in 2005 as a voluntary, incentive-based program designed to nurture a culture of health, engage employees and contain health care costs. HealthFitness partnered with the UofL in 2007 to provide health risk assessment, health coaching, web portal support and incentives management.

Realizing that health is more than simply the absence of disease, UofL adopted a view of health with a whole-person orientation that recognizes the physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions of health.

A culture of health
Today the UofL has successfully created a culture of health through its “Get Healthy Now” program. With a 74 percent participation rate, the program is successfully engaging participants in healthy programming and activities including:

  • Health coaching for all participants to help them improve healthy behaviors
  • Bike share, team biking initiatives and a bicycle commuting group (University President Ramsey himself bikes to work)
  • Caregiving workshops (including legal, financial and social topics)
  • Smoke-free campus and free smoking cessation classes
  • Mindfulness, yoga and relaxation classes through the wellness center
  • Community partnership with the American Heart Association for support groups, and disease management partnerships with the Greater Louisville YMCA and the University of Louisville Hospital

Real results
A 2012-2013 Return on Investment for the “Get Healthy Now” program found the program returned a benefit cost ratio of 7.16 to 1 after four years. Program participants had an average claims savings of $1,300 for an estimated $4.3 million in reduced claims spending.

In 2013, UofL used the cost savings to fund a “living wage” goal that increased the minimum salary for employees to $11 per hour—sharing in the wealth of good health— and helping support the financial well-being of their workforce.

Get Healthy Now program continues to evolve
In 2013, the UofL expanded its partnership with HealthFitness when UofL opened a 22,000-square-foot wellness center, which has served as a hub for many activities, including health and fitness assessments, workout design and wellness coaching services, as well as a range of health improvement classes and community well-being offerings.  Today, UofL is partnering with HealthFitness on future plans that include:

  • Expanding qualifying criteria so program participants can earn the monthly premium incentive
  • Increasing chronic condition management offerings
  • Increasing employee engagement in wellness offerings
  • Enhancing metrics and impact of efforts
  • Developing campus-wide healthy culture that embraces the entire community

Take a look inside
See inside the UofL’s state-of-the-art Get Healthy Now Wellness Center.