Colorado’s state government – itself one of the biggest employers in the Centennial State – has achieved milestones in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s goal to make Colorado the healthiest state in America. Already more than 10,000 state employees (30% of the qualified population) have begun participating in a range of health activities since the launch of a health incentive program in July 2013. Half of the participants have completed a Health Risk Assessment with their insurer, which is more than a 650% increase in HRA completion compared with the prior year.

The pioneering program, called Welltok’s CaféWell, is sponsored by UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente, which provide health insurance for Colorado state employees. The initiative’s health platform offers employees a variety of health activities, incentives for participation and access to resources, including health coaching.

“We have a unique opportunity to improve the health of state employees and lead the way as a wellness-focused employer,” said Hickenlooper. “The ultimate goal of the program is to be a leader in helping support work environments across the state, including our own, to be conducive to choosing healthy behaviors.”

Engagement rates in the program are impressive, with employees participating in wellness challenges and activities that range from nutrition and stress management to smoking cessation. Here are some highlights:

  • Nearly 20% of participants have joined the “Drink Water” challenge, committing to drinking 64 ounces of water each day.
  • Thousands more are engaging in nutrition challenges such as “Eating Leafy Greens” and “Healthy Snacking.”
  • Employees have reported success in combating daily stress with programs such as “Lights Out! Sleep Challenge.”

Following the early success of the program, the State of Colorado launched a new walking initiative in October branded “Reach for the Peaks.” Initial results have far exceeded expectations, with participants walking more than 112 million steps in the first two months of the program. 

To spur early adoption, the first thousand employees who joined the CaféWell walking initiative on launch day received free pedometers, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente. Subsequent registrants have participated in the program using personal pedometers or fitness tracking apps that could be linked to CaféWell’s online service. 

“I like reporting my progress, so I tend to make sure I get my lunchtime walk in so that I can track it,” said Tanya O’Connor, an employee with the Department of Public Health and Environment. “Also, I like thinking about what I ate during the day to make sure I am getting all of my colors of fruits and vegetables. It makes it fun.”

“We worked closely with employee organizations and Welltok to ensure that this program would actively engage state employees,” said State Personnel Director Kathy Nesbitt.

“We are pleased to partner with the State of Colorado and Welltok to provide an engaging platform that offers a variety of opportunities to be healthy at work,” said Eric France, M.D., Kaiser Permanente chief of population care and prevention services. “This program helps create and promote a culture of total health – something that’s in our Kaiser Permanente DNA. Employees can motivate each other to make positive changes that can ultimately result in a healthier workforce.”

By engaging thousands of employees already in the nascent period of the wellness initiative, leaders from the state government and insurers, UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente, expect this program to further their goal in helping “all Coloradoans live healthier lives through incentives and innovative programs,” said Robert Beauchamp, M.D., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare of Colorado.

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