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Feature

 A girl biting into a red apple

Spring into action

There's still time to take the UPlan Wellness assessment

By Susan Wiese

Brief, March 22, 2006; updated 1 p.m.

It's not too late for UPlan Wellness Medical Program members to spring into action with Health Connections, a new approach to wellness that offers financial incentives to

Active University employees who complete the wellness assessment by April 30 can earn a $65 reward. Those who complete one of four health-improvement programs can earn a second $65 reward. Go to www.healthconnections.umn.edu to get started.

Desire for fitness

"Ellen" is one of more than 4,700 University faculty and staff members who have signed up so far for Health Connections. It wasn't the prospect of the $65 wellness reward as much as the discomfort of her tight-fitting trousers and her husband's urging her to "get fit" that prompted the mostly sedentary 44-year-old to take the UPlan Wellness Assessment. She agreed to share her experience if she could be anonymous.

Health Connections:
Tips from a telephone health coach


* Get started down the path to better health by walking 30 minutes, two times a week.
* Build muscle mass (with hand weights) to burn calories while you sleep.
* Drink water before meal time to curb your appetite.
* Saute with vegetable oil spray to cook using less fat.
* Trim the size of a single portion--on average, eating 100 extra calories a day can add up to 10 excess pounds in one year.

The tipping point to better health for Ellen was a telephone call from Harris HealthTrends, Inc., the Toledo, Ohio-based administrator for Health Connections on behalf of UPlan Wellness.

"The health coach was just the best person to talk to," says Ellen. After a 40-minute conversation with her phone coach, a Harris HealthTrends nutritionist, Ellen came away with a "wellness prescription" that she says is filled with common-sense, easy assignments.

It's been seven weeks since that initial phone coach call. Ellen has lost five pounds and now walks 2.5 miles most days of the week. As a result of more physical activity, Ellen says she is sleeping better and can climb stairs without feeling winded. She admits she doesn't have the stamina, yet, to take her husband up on his challenge--to bike from White Bear Lake to Stillwater and back--but Ellen ventures that it "might be a real possibility by summer's end."

Motivation for change

A University editorial assistant, on the other hand, says it was the money--a lump-sum, taxable $65 wellness reward--that motivated her to complete the assessment. When "Anne" first heard about the University's new approach to wellness, she was skeptical. At 63, she considers herself knowledgeable about health and nutrition and doubted that such a tool would be useful. But the results of her assessment, coupled with the potential for earning financial rewards, changed her mind.

Today she's enrolled in one of the Web-based Healthy Living options and has found the online weight-control program valuable.

"I never thought something as impersonal as a weekly e-mail could be so motivating," says Anne. She likes the "easy and very practical" online suggestions for weight control. She credits the electronic heart-rate calculators on the StayWell Online Web site with her improved performance on the stationary bike.

More information, online and by phone

Connect to better health through Health Connections

UPlan Wellness Assessment

StayWell Health Management, 800-926-5455

Health coaching by phone
Harris HealthTrends Resource Center, 877-247-9204

Both Anne and Ellen discovered that the StayWell Online Web site, the host for Health Connections wellness assessment, is full of information, from breaking health news to "lite" recipes. In fact, they say there's so much information that users may suffer bouts of information overload.

Even so, these two early adopters of e-health recommend perseverance and suggest contacting the Health Connections service providers directly to overcome online troubles and get started down the path to better health.

Learn more about how UPlan Medical Program members who are active University employees can be financially rewarded. Do something healthy for yourself today at www.healthconnections.umn.edu.


Susan Wiese is the communications project manager for the Wellness Program.