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How to Create Local Wellness Champions



If you’re the primary person responsible for population health management and your organization has multiple divisions, branches, or subsidiaries, you need help. Local wellness champions can be your deputies in far-flung locales. More subtly, they can help spread your wellness culture so that it’s not considered just a headquarters initiative. Here’s how to create and arm those champions to carry your wellness culture to the far reaches of the organization.

Get executive support

Before you start, you’ll need executive support to deputize local champions. Explain why you need someone in each locale—preferably with specific examples. Describe what those people will do, how much time it will take, and what that will help you accomplish. Do your best to help your champions get wellness activities included in their job descriptions. Otherwise, you’ll always find yourself at the bottom of their priority lists, way under the activities on which they’re reviewed each year.

Identify your champions

Your local champions need to be people you can count on, so either look for recommendations from people you trust (such as a local human resources or general manager) or travel to as many sites as you can to identify the right individuals. Depending on the type of location (large subsidiary versus local retail branch, for instance) your champion could be an onsite nurse, a site manager, HR coordinator, or the general manager’s assistant. Ideally, these people will be eager to be part of your team. Talk to them about the importance and visibility of wellness initiatives within the company and let them know how important their support is.

Define champions’ roles

Look at your corporate wellness activities and list those that can’t be done from a distance. Local tactical activities include putting up posters and tent cards, helping set up health fairs, spreading messages through word-of-mouth, and providing support and training for local managers. Remember that people may pay more attention to messages that come from someone local who they already know and trust.

Keep the excitement going

Even though your local champions are located remotely, you don’t want them to feel remote. Here are some ideas to keep them connected and active:

  • Have a meeting of champions—by phone or web conference is fine—to launch your program so they feel like part of a team.
  • Explain their roles, tell them what you’ll do to support them, and keep them motivated.
  • Give them the big picture without overwhelming them with details.
  • Provide your annual calendar of health activities and events (including events at all locations) to give them context for their own activities.
  • Hold follow-up meetings once or twice a year to allow local champions to ask questions and pass along suggestions.
  • Ask them to send pictures taken during local health events so you can post them at headquarters to raise their visibility.
  • Run contests between locations and reward those champions who achieve the highest participation or outcomes from health events.

Setting up and supporting your local wellness champions requires a little extra effort from you up front, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Your company’s wellness culture should extend throughout the organization, and you can only make that happen by extending your reach.

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