DMU’s wellness program shows why it’s platinum

When it comes to promoting the health and wellness of its employees, Des Moines University puts its money where its mouth is with its Wellness Pays program. Employees earn financial incentives by practicing and tracking their wellness activities, including exercise, community service, preventive health care checks and pursuits in intellectual, social and spiritual wellness.

The DMU wellness center recently reopened with safety precautions in place, but throughout the pandemic its staff posted live exercise classes every weekday on the DMU Wellness Center Facebook page.

The wellness program is one reason DMU is the nation’s only college or university to earn platinum status from the Wellness Councils of America, its highest honor.

The University community came together virtually on July 15 for the annual Wellness Pays Finale, during which DMU President and CEO Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D., announced that employees will receive bonuses totaling $29,527 for their wellness activities in the past year.

Noting that wellness is among the University’s core values, President Franklin praised colleagues for demonstrating wellness behaviors amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have shown your resilience, your endurance, your perseverance, your sense of community and your continued commitment to our purpose of preparing tomorrow’s health care professionals,” she said.

Before the pandemic altered daily life, the University’s wellness program offerings included physical therapy wellness assessments for employees, provided by DMU physical therapy clinicians and students. A 21-day “Maintain, Don’t Gain” program gave participants incentives to control their weight during the holidays.

During a 10-week “Commit to Be Fit” wellness challenge, teams of employees and students, sporting names such as Waist Management, the Fit Wits and the Young and the Breathless, earned points for exercising regularly and shedding a whopping 611 pounds.

In addition, during the past year, the University used the $1,000 award it received in February 2019 for being named the large workplace winner by Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative: The money was given to the Central Iowa Shelter and Services to purchase fruit trees and support the shelter’s 30-foot growing dome and food pantry.

Even after COVID-19 led the University to close its wellness center, its staff – Joy Schiller, wellness center director; Nicole Frangopol, wellness specialist; and Missy Gripp, wellness center manager – offered live workout classes every weekday, from their homes, via the Des Moines University Wellness Center Facebook page. They also offered food demonstrations and “take 10” sessions for stretching, chair yoga, deep breathing and more. Bonus: All these offerings are saved on Facebook, so individuals who “like” the wellness center page can access them any time.

“Thanks to these dedicated staff members for going the extra mile to keep us on track in our health and wellness,” President Franklin said.

During the finale, DMU’s admissions staff shared how they intentionally focused on wellness as a team during the past year. They “retired” their candy jar and brought healthier snacks to the office. They celebrated each other on their birthdays and “DMUversaries” and created a gratitude list. They invited DMU experts to educate them about breast cancer, skin health, heart health and other topics. When the pandemic prevented their planned group Earth Day walk, staff members instead blocked off time on their calendars to take walks with their families and then shared photos of themselves with each other.

“Our initiative for next year will be to continue our focus on health, wellness, balance, happiness and mental health,” said Molly Moeller, M.B.A., director of admissions and recruitment.

As every year, the Wellness Pays Finale included drawings for prizes, including two $1,000 Grand Prizes with two vacation days each. Seventy-one employees were eligible for that prize by earning at least $10 in incentives per quarter for a minimum total of $200 and completing an online Personal Wellness Profile, which provides an assessment of a person’s health.

President Franklin concluded the event by emphasizing the importance of wellness practices, especially during challenging times, and thanking all employees.

“You help keep our University and our mission going strong every day,” she said.

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