The American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb in Louisville was a big success, raising almost $70,000.
With 268 participants and 87 volunteers, the event exceeded its fundraising goal by more than $7,000.
Participants climbed National City Tower’s 38 floors – 780 steps – to support research, education and patient programs that help people affected by lung disease.
Humana was a presenting sponsor, and Dr. Rae Godsey, Humana’s Corporate Medical Director, kicked off the event.
“As many of you know, Humana has set a bold goal for itself — The communities we serve will be 20% healthier by 2020 because we make it easy for people to achieve their best health,” she told the crowd. “In Louisville, one of our bold goal priorities is respiratory health.”
Nationally, about 8% of Americans have asthma. In Louisville, that number is almost 13%.
Climbers included casual and elite athletes, walkers and runners, firefighters, first responders and military veterans.
Tim Huval, Humana’s Chief Human Resources Officer, recently wrote about how to build a great company culture for the Fortune 500 Insider Network, an online community where top executives share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience.
Tim talks about how culture starts at the top and has to be modeled by the senior leadership team of any organization. He talks about hiring for cultural fit and how our Values inspire our best work and create a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.
“Being wide open and transparent with your team members is key, and the payoff is immense,” Tim says. “People believe in you, they trust you, and they want to work in an environment of honesty and authenticity.”
It’s the time of year when thousands of graduation ceremonies are held, signaling the end of one of life’s chapters and the beginning of another. It’s a time to celebrate reaching a goal and setting new ones.
Like many others, 15 students at a Louisville, Ky., high school recently celebrated the completion of a program that will help propel them toward a successful future. These students are not leaving high school yet, but they credit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana’s School to Work mentoring program for helping them figure out what they want to do when it is their turn to graduate.
The pilot program launched this year with 15 Seneca High School students who were matched with volunteer mentors from Humana and PricewaterhouseCoopers. It has been such a tremendous success that it will expand to 75 students throughout the Jefferson County Public School district next fall.
Over the course of several months, the students and their mentors completed a robust curriculum that they created together as a team. Topics included interview tips, dressing for success, how to develop a good personal brand image and its importance in the marketplace, managing finances and giving back to the community.
Ken Howard, a Humana employee and mentor, was drawn to the program immediately.
“As an African-American male, I saw a need and felt an obligation to become a mentor,” said Howard. “I wanted to connect with someone who looks like me and offer encouragement … you can succeed. The goal is to instill confidence.”
Howard is proud of the growth and progress he witnessed, recalling that Sharrieff Davis, the student he was matched with, was initially quiet, reserved and apprehensive about participating in practice interviews.
“When the facilitator asked for volunteers to conduct mock interviews, Sharrieff raised his hand to participate,” said Howard. “When he got in front of the group, he did an outstanding job and the facilitator was impressed.
“I encouraged him to try because anything is possible,” said Howard. “I was that kid at his age so I knew he needed a little prodding. I was amazed by his growth and development over the course of the program. He has lofty goals and wants to be an anesthesiologist. He has a lot to offer, and I expect great things from him.”
The mentors and students took time during the final program session
to celebrate their time together and their accomplishments of the past few months: making the honor roll, getting jobs, volunteering in the community, joining the student council, being cleared to rejoin the football team and making new friends.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to be matched with someone who could teach me about careers and business,” 10th-grader Makayla Shelby-Fields said at the celebratory session. “I want to be a lawyer – and maybe have my own business. It has been a great learning experience and helpful to connect with an adult who has been there. It’s been fun.”
Elijah Linke, also a sophomore at Seneca High, said he originally thought joining the program would simply give him a good activity to list on college applications, but, in the end, the rewards went far beyond that for him.
“I learned what it’s like to work as a team and how important that is,” said Elijah, who wants to major in psychology or criminal justice. “This program gave me a better grasp on the future and what the outside world is really like. I learned from someone with real-world experience. It’s been a blast.”
The students were not the only ones learning and gaining new perspectives.
“I also got a unique perspective of the world through the eyes of 16-year-old and realized they are dealing with a different world – via social media and other challenges – than I did,” said Howard. “I went in with the mindset of how I can help mentor and offer insights, and I came away learning so much more from him.”
The physical workspace of Humana’s new Digital Experience Center may be unique for the company, with features more likely to be seen in a Silicon Valley office than one in Louisville, Kentucky, but the work being done in it fits perfectly with Humana’s goal of making it easier for the people living in the communities we serve to achieve their best health.
The purpose of this innovative digital software accelerator is to create and update Humana’s digital products quickly and simply while working collaboratively with the consumers who will be using them.
“It’s an exciting day,” Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard said Thursday at an event to mark the official opening of the Louisville center.
Broussard noted that it is more important than ever for the company to collaborate with its customers given the ever-changing complexities in health care. He pointed out that one of the most important factors in the innovative approach of the Digital Experience Center is the fact that Humana is “wrapping the customer around the product” by getting instant feedback from them. Consumers are brought in weekly to test and review the products being developed or updated, making them a part of the team.
“To be successful, we have to be agile,” he said. “Collaboration is part of being agile.”
One element of Humana’s new approach to product development is creating a more collaborative and empowered process for its employees as well as the consumer. The digital product designers, developers and managers work in pairs, side-by-side — sharing two keyboards for a single computer. The teams are working exclusively on digital products and with increased focus because they are limiting the daily disruptions created by the meetings, email and phone calls found in a traditional office setting. The physical setup is also a departure from the past, with workers having the option of using stand-up desks or recharging mentally and physically at the two ping pong tables in the office.
After winning a Team Up 4 Health scavenger hunt in a park in Pineville, Kentucky, Kelly Wilder was all smiles when she sat down to tell the story of her most valuable discovery: She holds the key to a happier and healthier life. She has rediscovered her own potential and the confidence to make positive behavioral changes that are already showing results.
Wilder, 33, jokingly estimates that, in the last few years, she probably had been walking a total of 30 feet during a day, but in recent weeks, she has completed several challenging hikes and is training to run a 5K race this fall.
“I reached the top of the mountain and couldn’t believe what I had just done,” she says about a recent 10-mile hike in Bell County, Kentucky. “It made me realize that I can do far more than I thought – more than I ever dreamed. Now I know what is possible.”
Wilder, who joined Team Up 4 Health about six weeks ago, credits the program for her newfound confidence and motivation. The program, sponsored by Humana, is implemented by global nonprofit Microclinic International (MCI), and local organizations in southeastern Kentucky. It began as a pilot program in 2011 in Bell County and expanded to Rockcastle County in 2014, in part because of the success of the pilot.
How it works
The concept and goal are simple: Empowering small groups of people – family members, neighbors, friends, church groups – to motivate and influence their own community members to make small behavioral changes in order to live longer, healthier lives. The program, which spans generations, takes health seriously but includes several fun elements, such as the scavenger hunt and forming teams that give themselves names like The Toads, The Fabulous 4, The Golden Girls, The Scorpions, and Movers and Shakers.
The small teams or “microclinics” often share meals or schedule physical activities throughout the week to help each other keep on track with a healthier lifestyle and to hold each other accountable for sticking to it. Once a week, the teams meet with a facilitator from a local health organization for classes. They compare notes, cheer each other on, compete for prizes, and learn about nutrition, exercise and ways to cope with – or prevent – chronic diseases.
Making a difference
Can small groups of two to six participants working on small changes really prevent chronic disease and create lasting, positive change for an entire community?
The numbers show that it is possible: Overall, 95 percent of the 750 initial pilot participants improved in at least one of the following measures: weight, body mass index, waist circumference, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, HbA1c percentage and systolic blood pressure. Additional data from the two-year pilot is available at the Team Up 4 Health website. (Click here to access the report.)
But the best evidence that it can work is listening to the participants, like Wilder, who see and feel the improvements in their own lives. During recent interviews in Bell and Rockcastle counties, other current and former program participants talked about social, emotional and physical changes that are having a positive impact on their total well-being. They talked about the value of feeling they are part of a team: motivating each other, holding each other accountable, inspiring each other and learning to live healthier while having fun with family and friends. They say they have learned that healthier behavior is contagious and are excited to see it spread through their own families and their communities.
They are awakening to the full potential for lifelong well-being in the natural beauty surrounding their communities, awakening to the full potential within themselves.
Ronnie Bullock (Mt. Vernon, Kentucky)
Ronnie Bullock has faced serious health challenges in recent years: stroke, two heart attacks and the loss of a leg. He is 48. Despite the enormous hurdles, Bullock was determined to use the health challenges as motivation to change his life. Since joining the Rockcastle County Team Up 4 Health program a few weeks ago, Bullock has already lost more than 10 pounds and is having fun in the process.
Bullock said the Team Up 4 Health classes have taught him a lot about nutrition and about the importance of being active even if confined to a wheelchair. He said he lost the weight by drastically reducing his intake of soft drinks, eating more vegetables, reducing portion sizes at all meals and learning to do exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, in his chair.
The camaraderie of the teams and the local program facilitator, Lorinda Fletcher, has inspired him to push himself further than he thought possible and has lifted his spirits.
“You have to stay active, be around other people and have fun – no matter what,” he said.
David Smith and Christina Stanfield (Corbin, Kentucky)
David Smith and Christina Stanfield are part of a Team Up 4 Health microclinic that formed a few weeks ago in Corbin. Both are already reporting positive health changes.
Smith said he had not had a routine checkup with his doctor for years but thought he was healthy and in pretty good shape for a 65-year-old until an initial biometric screening for the Team Up 4 Health program revealed some potentially serious issues.
The retired post office worker said the program has demonstrated, in simple terms, that making small lifestyle changes can become healthful habits that last a lifetime – and may increase the length of his own life.
He has lost weight and has more energy since he began eating better and becoming more active. He said it has been gradual and easy changes such as eating fruits and berries for snacks rather than his usual chocolate and pie, and watching less TV and taking more walks.
“It’s about moderation and making small changes that have made a big difference in how I feel,” Smith said. “I think it is going to change my life for the better and for the long run.”
His teammate, Christina Stanfield, agreed that the emphasis on moderation and simple changes has made it easier to make healthier living a lifelong habit and not a short-term goal. She also said better health has been contagious and is spreading to all generations of her family.
“My son’s health has improved, and my grandmother thinks the program is fabulous,” Stanfield said.
Virginia Giles and Willene Black (Bell County, Kentucky)
Virginia Giles and Willene Black participated in the initial pilot program in Bell County. They both began to feel better and learn how easy it is to make good changes. Both say they continue to get support for healthier living from within the community.
“The small changes are important,” said Giles, giving the example of realizing how much hidden sugar she was consuming in a day. She said one of her favorite classes during the program was when the group visited a local grocery store and learned to read nutrition labels.
“I considered myself healthy, but you don’t realize the full impact until you really begin to look at labels and find that some ‘heart-healthy’ labeled foods are much too high in sodium,” she said. “And a wheat bread label doesn’t mean the bread is really whole grain.”
Black attributes much of the program’s success to the fact that participants feel the support of their families and the community as a whole and that it is a simple, step-by-step process that makes the changes easy.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Black said. “It’s opened a whole new world. I didn’t realize how easy it would be to get into a healthier way of living and stay with it. It was like a lifesaver for me.”
Lakin Daniels (Local program facilitator from Bell County Health Department)
“They motivate me to stay healthy as much as I motivate them,” said Lakin Daniels, a Team Up 4 Health program facilitator in Bell County.
Daniels, who began her own journey to better health several years ago, said she has been inspired by the program since attending her first meeting.
“I remember one participant whose initial biometric screening revealed a dangerously high HbA1c (blood sugar) level,” said Daniels. “The participant had no idea it was that high and began to cry as the reality and seriousness of the situation set in.
“As the participant walked away that day, it really hit me how important this program could be,” Daniels said. “I don’t want to say we are saving lives, but maybe … what would have happened if that person had not learned about the serious situation and made an appointment to see a doctor? We are making a difference. Even if it is a small difference, it is going to pay off in the long run.”