Podcast: Season 1 Recap


In this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, we’re looking back at Season 1 and the insights the Onlife Health professionals shared on wellness trends for 2016, creating a culture of health, and behavior change. Over the course of the season, we’ve sat down with them and other experts to discuss changing attitudes towards wellness, data measurement, wearable devices, and the relationship between incentives and engagement.

“One of the things that we have found, is that there is no cookie-cutter approach to wellness.” -Mark McConnell, Vice President of Health and Wellness Solutions at Onlife Health



Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our Season 1 recap.



Dr. Catherine Bass: So, one of the things that we have just done consistently over the years – and this is across the industry – is create a one-size-fits-all plan, and one size does not fit all. One size might fit 10% of the population, and so then what you have is maybe 90% of the population that it’s not effective for. And that results in no one being happy.

Dustin Graham: You could eat well, and you could be in great shape, but it’s more of an overall look at your health and your quality of life, and putting it all together, not just one aspect of health.

Brenda Gill: There are a lot of individuals out there that want and need to make changes, and they just need someone in their corner. They just need someone that will, two things: hold them accountable, and then just be a support and a motivator.

Mark McConnell: One of the things that we have found, is that there is no cookie-cutter approach to wellness.

Host: This is the Well-Being Experts podcast and you just heard from Director of Informatics Dr. Catherine Bass, health coaches Dustin Graham and Brenda Gill, and Vice President of Health and Wellness Solutions Mark McConnell at Onlife Health. We’ve sat down with them and other experts to discuss wellness trends for 2016, creating a culture of health, and behavior change.

In this episode, we’re going to look back at all the insights the Onlife Health professionals shared on changing attitudes towards wellness, data measurement, wearable devices, and the relationship between incentives and engagement. Of course, for all the full interviews and for more content like this, go to onlifehealth.com/resources. Enjoy!

Matt Abernathy: But where I started, you know, I was probably about 250 pounds. I had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar. Doctor said at 21, I was at high risk for premature heart attack. And I was pre-diabetic. He said you’ve got to change, you’ve got to drop some weight, change your cholesterol, change all of this stuff. Come back and see me in a number of months and if it’s not changed I’m putting you on all these different medicines. And he said specifically, “Hey, these medicines will fry your liver, but, you know, it’s better than staying this way.” So, I just decided well, I’m just not going to go back to the doctor, that’s probably my best course of action.

Host: Why go back when you know there’s bad news?

Matt: Yeah, I’ll just stay here.

Host: We’re going to kick this off by revisiting our interview with Matt Abernathy, Regional Service Coordinator at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Matt had reached a point of his life when wellness had to become a priority. After the birth of his daughter, he began to seek more and more information on achieving a higher level of wellness.

Matt: But I think there was a desire to be healthy. And that desire drives you to make choices. I’m going to educate myself on diet. I’m going to educate myself on exercise. I’m going to educate myself on proper exercise, the proper amount of exercise I should get. What’s training in a safe manner looks like, what a good diet looks like, as far as, not a crash diet, but what does a healthy diet look like? How many calories should I be eating? And how much sugar, how much carbs, how much of this stuff should I be taking in every day?

Host: By getting involved with a corporate health program, Matt was able to get healthy in an environment that offered plenty of support, resources, a spirit of accountability with others in the office and a team spirit that helped him achieve a higher level of wellness.

Also this season, we talked with Onlife Health Health and Wellness Consultant Hayley Hines, who’s worked with over 200 employers to implement a culture of health in the workplace. First, let’s start off by just defining, what is a culture of health? How do you look at that? What’s that mean to you?

Hayley Hines: Yeah, so I think it could mean a lot of things depending on the organization. But from my perspective, what it means is that health is a consideration for pretty much all of the major business decisions that are made in an organization. So anything from the food that they order in meetings all the way to are members given the opportunity to climb the stairs versus taking the elevator. So it can be a multiple approach. And then it can also be giving people walk stations to work from or standing desks. It can mean a lot of things, but I think the main objective from an organizational perspective is that the senior leadership has buy-in for the health promotion, and everything trickles down from that.

Host: This could be all another conversation, but creating a culture of health within an already established and existing culture – they have their own patterns their own norms – how do you bring in a change? How do you shift in something new?

Hayley: Yeah. So usually we start really small. You might say we’ve created a new policy where we only allow healthy meals at lunches or meetings. So, for example, that same organization used to get these trays of lasagna and garlic bread, and all these big, huge, heavy, carb laden, fat laden, lunch meals and people would be in a carb coma in the middle of the afternoon. So, what they started to do is more healthy options, portion controlled, and people ended up loving it because they ate so much less and they felt so much better. So that was one little initiative. 

The next thing they did was create a strategy or a policy for their vendors to not bring those big huge tins of popcorn for holidays, and chocolates and all this stuff. They asked either make a donation or bring us a fruit basket. So like even just little things like that that they were doing to start to shift the culture. They also provided free fruit. So instead of having bowls of candy on everyone’s desk, – that you can’t say no to – they just brought in fresh fruit delivery every week and people ended up eating a ton more fruit. So it’s just little stuff like that as part of an overall strategy. So this is within their overall health management strategy to help create and support those healthier habits.


Well-Being Experts is supported by Onlife Health. With 20 years of industry experience and over 10 million covered lives, Onlife knows how to drive the ongoing engagement needed to create real results. Find out why health plans and large employers nationwide trust Onlife Health as their comprehensive wellness provider. Visit onlifeheath.com to learn more. 


Host: Before the break, we looked back at initiating corporate health programs to help employees meet their health goals in the workplace. But getting everyone on board with programs like this can be more complex than simply offering opportunities to improve overall wellness. And that’s where incentives come into play. Especially, as we discussed with Scientific Adviser Dr. David Schlundt.

Is paying or incentivizing someone – is that really considered behavior change or is, just to go deeper than that? How does an employer approach that topic to help someone make them decide they’re going to change?

Dr. David Schlundt: I think that providing people with incentives, particularly to get them started on the process of behavior change, is really a legitimate strategy. And again, we go back through the function of behaviors and, “What am I going to get out of this?” So for example, in thinking about motivation, people think it’s sort of a secret magic substance that you have a certain amount of and somehow you’ve got to crank up the motivation.

Really, motivation is thinking about: what are the costs and benefits to me? How much effort is this going to be? How much money is this going to cost me? How much time is it going to take? And very often people overestimate some of those costs. And giving them a little nudge saying, “Well, okay, so if you go through this module on improving your eating habits and you get started and you self-monitor for two weeks, we’re going to give you whatever incentive. We’ll give you a gym bag or a water bottle.”

Host: That’s interesting.

Dr. Schlundt: So I do think incentives really can be a valuable part of it. Essentially what you have to do though is get that person to connect to the personal reasons why it’s important to do this or do something different. So these people had high normal blood pressure. Part of what they were motivated by was, “If I can modify my diet, it may actually keep me from getting hypertension, and may prevent me from having to go on medication, or may delay how long before I go on medications.”

Host: In order to build incentive programs, we learned that you need data – validated information – verifying that individuals are making meaningful changes and that progress really is being made. In order to do that, organizations promote wearable technologies, such as fitness trackers and mobile apps to gather data on wellness activities, according to Director of Product Development Abbey Griffin.

So with tracking devices and wearable devices, mobile apps, all of these things, is there a right kind of data to be looking for to help make sure you’re building that into an incentive program, or does that vary from organization to organization? Do you have any insights on, once you’re gathering all this data, how you use that data?

Abbey Griffin: Sure. So with the data that we collect, I think that it’s probably one of the most important pieces or portions of the program that we do. So we have access to this wealth of information that we can use in creative ways to change people’s lives. So incentives is the most common way we can use this data to reward healthy behavior. It’s also a way that we can help with sustained engagement. So initial engagement incentives is really there to help someone get started, but that initial engagement is something that I think the whole industry struggles with.

So some of the things that we’re starting to do, specific to the fitness wearables, is we have this wealth of fitness information. And we know when people are actually using a fitness tracker that they’ve connected with our site, when they fall off, and they stop using it, when they’ve kind of over-achieved and done more than what we’re seeing as their average. And we can now use that data to give them nudges, or to prompt them and say, “Hey. Nice job. Try doing 10,000 more steps next week.” Or, you know, small goals that we can use. We can also create individualized incentives that are threshold-based. So we can work with an employer and offer an incentive for 30 minutes of activity a day to really kind of hone in on the clinical guidelines that we’re kind of anchored in.

Host:  Throughout this season we’ve talked with wellness professionals who are striving to transform lives through healthy living, and help people see that establishing new patterns and small adjustments can lead to life-altering changes in the long run. Perhaps no one said it better than Clinical Manager Jerry Painter, whose wisdom we’ll use to end this episode.

Jerry Painter: I think the biggest misconception in behavior change is that it has to happen overnight. And time and time again, we say, “No.” You know, “We want you to set long-term goals.” We can certainly set short-term goals, and maybe that’s instead of six cigarettes, I have five cigarettes. That’s a change, that’s a positive change. The long-term goal is we want you to quit smoking. Smoking doesn’t do you any favors, and so, the same with exercise, the same with eating right. Making the small steps is a great way to start.

Host: Thank you to all the guests and thank you for listening to this whole recap episode. Well-Being Experts is brought to you by Onlife Health, a comprehensive wellness solutions company that has spent years working with health plans and large employers nationwide.


Today’s podcast, all the full interviews, and additional perspectives from the Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome your comments, questions, or feedback at engage@onlifehealth.com. Thanks.