Healthy Herd Laurels

Healthy Herd Program Wins Harvard Pilgrim Innovator Award

January 11, 2016
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Jessica Szymczak, Deb Ofcarcik, Eric Chojnowski, Connie Aramento and Shavaun Cloran
Healthy Herd program organizers.

One year ago, at the suggestion of a few employees interested in promoting wellness, WPI launched Healthy Herd, a structured program incorporating nutrition, fitness, and healthy living. Faculty and staff responded enthusiastically, and the program has produced such positive results that Harvard Pilgrim Health Care awarded WPI its Health Innovator Award.

Healthy Herd provides resources to those who want to attain better physical, emotional, and financial health. And several seminars are held each year on eating, meditation, parenting, retirement planning, and caring for aging parents. Harvard Pilgrim provides resources and experts to help employees lose weight, reduce cholesterol, decrease anxiety, and manage daily stresses.

Click here to see Eric Chojnowski and Brian Duffy talk about the Healthy Herd.

In 2013 members of WPI’s office of Human Resources sought input from the campus, and using those suggestions, put together Healthy Herd, says Eric Chojnowski, benefits administrator.

Brian Duffy lost 20 pounds in 10 weeks.

“Healthy Herd at WPI began as a group of individuals who were interested in wellness and ways in which to bring wellness to the community,” he says. “The health challenge was one of the ideas that came forth from a couple of individuals in the group who wanted to work with a smaller group and have a trainer, a dietician, and life coach to get people on a healthier path.”

In January 2015 Healthy Herd issued its first Ultimate Challenge, a 10-week regimen that uses weight training, cardio workouts, and other aerobic activities. One of those participating Brian Duffy, who works in WPI’s powerhouse. Duffy had earlier devised his own weightlifting program, but found it to be boring and repetitive, and without the desired results, he lost interest.

“I got email one day on the Ultimate Challenge, and I read about it,” Duffy says. “They would only pick 15 people, and I decided I’m going to try anyway, and I got a response that I actually got in. So, wow!”

Duffy had three people on team: dietician Shavaun Cloran, trainer Deb Ofcarcik, and lifestyle coach Connie Aramento. Cloran helped him with eating a healthier diet; Ofcarcik designed his physical workout routines, making it more fun; and Aramento helped him live a healthier lifestyle, he says.

Duffy said he is eating healthier and living a better lifestyle as a result of the Healthy Herd program.

“I was eating a lot of fats, greasy foods,” Duffy says. “I’m definitely eating healthier—salads, chicken, and a lot of protein because I’m into weight lifting. I lost 20 pounds in 10 weeks. I’m eating healthier and living a way better lifestyle than I was, mentally and physically.”

Duffy liked the program’s weekly meetings with other participants, which kept everyone on pace, and which encouraged them to share their successes and discuss areas they needed to work on.

“I haven’t stopped since I started, and it’s been over a year now. I work out every day, Monday through Friday.  I run two miles a day at 9 o’clock in the morning, and weight training at noontime.

“I would recommend it to anyone. Set realistic goals and try to make it fun.”

BEHAVIORAL CONDITIONING

To date, two Healthy Herd programs have run, with a third in the works. All participants submit to a health history and a nutrition review as a baseline to plan a fitness regimen. Healthy Herd also offers a four-week behavioral conditioning program under the direction of “Billy the Coach,” which focuses on learning one’s behaviors and their causes.

Two recent presentations dealt with “People Who Push Our Buttons,” and “Getting Hooked on Exercise.” The program also emails out daily “one-minute workouts that can be done at one’s desk to an opt-in list that covers stretching, meditating, performing yoga, or working various muscle groups.

Those involved in running Healthy Herd report that participants are reaping the benefits of lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as weight loss.

EXCELLENT RESPONSE

Chojnowski says the campus response to the program has been excellent. Plans are in the works for another Ultimate Challenge in the spring. Those who want to become involved in Healthy Herd can send an email to healthyherd@wpi.edu.

“As long as there’s commitment, we plan to continue and expand, bring in those who have gone through this and make sure they’re still on track, and provide that additional support,” he says. “It’s great in that it’s homegrown—ideas are coming from the community, so that helps us in developing these. And we look forward to developing more programs going forward.”

Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk, vice president of emerging markets at Harvard Pilgrim, told the Worcester Business Journal that WPI has provided its staff with the tools to address physical, mental, and financial health, creating an initiative that “raises the bar in wellness offerings” in Central Mass. “We are proud to partner with WPI and applaud its success with these initiatives,” she says.

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