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Updated 2:15 PM December 9, 2008
 

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  MHealthy
Wellness assessments to be offered in 2009

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Forum: U-M committed to affordable health care >

Registration begins tomorrow in some areas of the University for the latest MHealthy program designed to create a culture of health and wellness at U-M. Active faculty and staff on all three campuses are encouraged to take part in an MHealthy Wellness Assessment — a free, confidential evaluation offering participants the opportunity to get an accurate picture of their personal health and a individualized plan for improvement.

And MHealthy leaders are so convinced of the importance of regular wellness assessments in improving the overall health of the University community that they are offering benefits-eligible faculty and staff members a $100 pre-tax incentive to participate.

"Wellness assessments are used by organizations throughout the country as an effective foundational strategy for measuring community health and engaging people in health improvement activities targeted to their individual needs," says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer. "The University has made a commitment to doing health risk appraisals as part of our activities within the MHealthy Program."

"You know, many people don't know that they have a health problem that's creeping up on them. They feel well, and they don't realize perhaps that their blood pressure's elevated, their cholesterol is not right, and that these risks can cause them substantial troubles 10, 20, 30 years down the road.

"The wellness assessment will allow our faculty and staff to step back and look at their risk factors, with a health professional, and perhaps make changes that will have a positive impact on long-term health."

Frank Krupansky understands the value of health assessments to identify otherwise-hidden risks.

The director of Materiel Services for the U-M Hospitals always has encouraged a culture of wellness in his department, in which many of his staff members perform very physical tasks. Materiel Services personnel transport patients, deliver mail, and manage supplies, equipment and instruments for UMH.

But it was the deaths of four staff members over an 18-month period that convinced Krupansky he needed to step up efforts to create a healthier work environment. Two people passed away after long-term illnesses, but the other deaths were very unexpected, Krupansky said in a recent interview.

"We said goodbye to them one afternoon. They left work, and died unexpectedly in their sleep. Both those young men were relatively healthy. We knew of no health issues. But it just made me think about things like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and those being silent killers," he said.

"What that led me to do was to contact MHealthy and see what we could do in terms of addressing some of those issues, and taking maybe some proactive steps."

For Harvey Sherman, client-server operations manager for Information Technology Services at U-M-Flint, the heath crisis was his own. Overweight and unable to walk more than 50 yards at a time, it was the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes that prompted him to pay attention to his diet and activity level.

"I carefully watched what types of foods I was eating. I didn't so much concentrate on how much I was eating. I didn't have to. I was so big that the exercise was enough. And I think the first year I lost 110 pounds," Sherman said.

"I went from walking 50 yards — now I can walk two or two and a half miles. It's opened my life back up to me."

Registration for the MHealthy Wellness Assessments will be handled in phases. Beginning tomorrow, e-mails will start going out to faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor campus inviting them to sign up for a wellness assessment, then to Dearborn and Flint faculty and staff on Thursday. Employees in the U-M Health System, Medical School and School of Nursing will be invited to register in early January. The wellness assessment appointments will take place late January through April 2009.

The assessment includes a health questionnaire, a 30-minute wellness screening and a results review session with a health professional, during which each participant will receive a personal health report and information on resources for health and lifestyle improvement. Based on results, participants may be given the opportunity to work with a personal health coach to achieve health improvement goals.

To ensure privacy, the University has contracted with a third party vendor to provide the assessments. To further protect anonymity, health information gathered in the process also will be processed by the vendor and only will be provided to the University in unidentifiable summary form, to help leaders understand the overall health of faculty and staff, and to develop future wellness and health improvement programs.

Benefit-eligible participants who complete the MHealthy Wellness Assessment will receive a $100 taxable cash incentive through payroll. GSIs, GSSAs, GSRAs, research fellows and non-benefit-eligible faculty and staff may participate in the program but will not receive the cash incentive.

To find out more about what will take place during the assessment and how to register, go to www.mhealthy.umich.edu/programs/wellness.

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