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Expert Interview

William B. BaunWilliam B. Baun has more than 32 years experience in worksite health promotion management/programming and directs the Employee Wellness program at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He is Chair of the CEO Cancer Gold Standard initiative, which is focused on worksite cancer prevention, early detection, and ensuring access to the best available treatment.

Prior to joining M. D. Anderson, he managed the Tenneco Health Promotion program. The Tenneco program received the Washington Business Group on Health's "Worksite Wellness Award", Forbes' "Healthiest Company" recognition and was the first worksite awarded the "C. Everett Koop Health Project Award". William has numerous wellness leadership awards and is a Fellow of both Association of Worksite Health Promotion and the American Alliance Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance Research Consortium.  He is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Wellness Institute, Houston Wellness Association, CAN DO (a community childhood obesity effort) and is the Chair of the Mayor's Wellness Council in Houston. 

He has a B.S. in Economics/Government from Louisiana State University, a Master's degree from University North Texas in Exercise Science, and doctoral work in Human Organizational Systems from the Fielding Institute.

Q: In your experience overseeing worksite wellness at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), what are some promising practices that other employers could follow?
Mr. Baun: Promising practices I would suggest to others—

  1. Look at using a departmental model that focuses on helping the different departments in your organization begin to create and support wellness cultures.
  2. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once, wellness is about relationship building, and giving people quality opportunities.
  3. Consider how you can build a strong program foundation that includes people, programs, and appropriate metrics.
  4. Metrics must fit your organization and the needs of not just senior management, but also middle management for they truly carry the program forward.

Q: Is there a model that employers can use to guide the development of worksite interventions?
Mr. Baun: I really like Michael O'Donnell's new model that should guide our behavior change programming, which is the bottom-line of all worksite wellness efforts—ask if we changed behavior. Below is my take on his model.

graphic showing people scaling a cube toward behavior change, with opportunity, self confidence, action, skill, support, behavioral efficacy, self efficacy, motivation readiness, knowledge and awareness on the side

But the model that I have used for many years and my staff has helped re-engineer several times is what we call the PPT process or Program Plan and Time-line. This is a process that we use to put together all of our programming at MDACC. I have attached the outline of the process.  I first published this with David Hunnicutt in our Small Business book in 1998. 

Q: How important is individual-level wellness coaching? What are some of the forms of coaching? What if an employer does not have extensive resources to invest in coaching?
Mr. Baun: As a 32-year worksite wellness veteran it has been fun watching our field grow, change, and rise up to meet the needs of worksite wellness. I started as a high touch worksite wellness professional and I feel strongly that what most of the worksite wellness experts are now saying is that success comes from a program that offers both a strong virtual program, and a strong high touch program.  So, yes—coaching is important for a group of your employees. It is the only way they will initiate successful behavior change. The good news is that the data suggest that telephone, e-mail, and other coaching methods can be just as or even more effective than face-to-face coaching. We use a hybrid model at MD Anderson that tries to get the biggest bang for our buck in matching coaching method to needs. This takes some time, but the payoff is huge and your coaches are able to maximize their time and success rates.

Q: Who is a wellness champ? How can employers identify wellness champs for their worksites?
Mr. Baun: Years ago I did an assessment consulting gig at Marriott, who at the time had more than 300,000 employees in thousands of hotels and motels. What I walked away with I probably should have paid them for—a real understanding of how an ambassador or Wellness Champ network could work. Wellness Champs are simply wellness liaisons or the "voice" of your program in the many different departments around your company. They know where the best bulletin boards are, they know the new employees or where a conference room is that never gets used. They become your ears and eyes for a successful program. "Identify"— not sure if I would have chosen that word.  Wellness champs are volunteers, some get appointed, but the best are looking for a side job that gives them recognition that they don't receive in their job. We have found that what they want is a letter each year that tells their boss that they are doing a good job as a champ, and a few good lunches.

Q: How can employers/worksites promote social support for health goals? Why is social support important to organizational health?
Mr. Baun: If you have heard me speak before I say all the time, "WE DON'T DO WELLNESS ALONE!" The data is very clear, those that have, get, or are support for others are more successful in their wellness efforts. The key is to build social support and social support networks that are relevant to your organizations / employee needs. Customization and personalization are critical to wellness success. What sounds like a good idea, might not fit your organizational climate or culture. Be willing to pilot support programs and learn what will be successful.

Q: What are some levels of program intensity? How can employers determine which level of intensity is appropriate for their targeted groups?
Mr. Baun: I am a big believer in O'Donnell's three levels of program intensities: 1)awareness or education materials or teaching; 2) behavior change or programs, events, or coaching that challenges people to change and provides the processes to track change; 3) last but not least is environmental support or those things in the environment that support someone's effort to change. Which effort is appropriate for targeted groups? Good question and the answer is in "readiness", there are lots of good ways to measure readiness and we tend to complicate this, but you could just ask them. Understanding individuals or a group's wellness readiness helps us design program intensities that will not only promote wellness, but in the short- and long-term support it will ensure a wellness or culture of health.

Q: How is employee responsibility for their health incorporated into wellness programs?
Mr. Baun: Now you are getting it! Without responsibility and accountability worksite wellness does not work! I like what Steve Burd says from Safeway, he talks about transparency in costs and getting employees to understand that this benefits partnership costs not just the company, but also hits their wallet or purse. But it's more than money, and responsibility needs to also be promoted as part of the "teaming" that happens in companies. Peer pressure is significant in moving teams to be higher performers, and employees that don't manage their health as they should begin to feel the wrath of their team mates in cultures of health. As a field, worksite wellness has a long ways to go in doing what safety did—truly making self responsibility a key component of successful safety cultures. But I do believe that we are moving in the right direction. Want some ideas— read the safety literature.

Program, Plan & Time-Line for Program Planning

Proposal — Kick Start Wellness Proposal Worksheet

  1. Is this a new program?  If no, briefly discuss: what was done last year, high points, low points, etc.
  2. What is the major purpose of the program? Include: how it fits in our overall strategy, program mix and identify program intensity level (Program mix =individual, targeted group, customized intervention; Intensity level = awareness, behavior change, environmental support).
  3. What is the need for this program?
  4. What are the potential benefits of this program?
  5. What are the 2–4 program goals? Include: goal statement and metric for measuring success.
  6. What are the program basics? Include: brief description of program, population or targets, marketing ideas, delivery ideas, tie into My Wellness Home and evaluation ideas.

Plan — Program Plan Worksheet

  • Budgeted dollar amount
  • Description of the program
  • Program rules and requirements
  • Registration and orientation process
  • Participant goal setting
  • Participant barrier discovery process
  • Skill building components
  • Educational components
  • Social support systems
  • Environmental support systems
  • Tracking systems
  • Support materials
  • Necessary forms
  • Incentives and celebration process

Timeline (Dates) / Short Outline of Programming Tasks

Program Preparation & Design

  • Reserving rooms
  • Marketing/communications—recruiting participants
  • Ordering supplies, designing materials, etc.
  • Incentive strategy, celebration planning and tie to My Wellness Home
  • Training staff or lay leaders

Program Implementation

  • Kickoff date
  • Staff or lay leader help 

Program Maintenance

  • Ongoing communications
  • Maintaining participant compliance—what ideas do you have?
  • Meeting rooms, etc.

Program Celebration, Evaluation & Follow Up

  • Purpose and organization of celebration
  • Process, impact, or outcome evaluation —what's important to look at
  • Is follow up appropriate? What's it look like? Tie into My Wellness Home?
  • Reporting of results to participants, staff ,and management

Also in This Section

The opinions expressed in these interviews are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), or the U.S. Government.  The placement of these interviews on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website does not imply the endorsement of one particular organization, author, product, or service over another. 

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