Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that being healthy is a personal priority. But all too often, health and wellness can fall by the wayside, especially for busy parents who are simply trying to juggle work and family life. Well, Humana Vitality has created a system that rewards people for getting in those extra steps, or swapping in sweet potatoes when they’re making fries for their child. We spoke with Bria Day of Humana Vitality, Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian, and Dr. Tom Van Gilder, a National Wellness Director for Humana Vitality about getting healthy as a family and earning points as a part of your wellness journey.
So let’s talk about the program and how it works. I think it’s so great because not only are you inspiring people to get healthy, but they’re actually getting rewarded for it and in healthier ways.
Tom: Right, Jennifer, that’s an excellent summary. We really see ourselves as a program that provides incentives for people who are members to live healthier lives. And we try to combine the best of medical science with what we know motivates people to get them to move from where they are now to a healthier place, whether that’s related to a weight, or to physical activity, or to nutrition or stress or really just about anything that affects your health.
Can you just kind of give like an overview of how the program works?
Tom: Yes. One way to think about it is a four-word progression that we use, which is Ready, Set, Go, Earn. The ready portion is what is often referred to as a health assessment. A member can go online and look at a very engaging series of questions that takes you through various health and wellness parameters and questions that help you understand where you are now. You move from that Ready stage, which is also corresponds to a status called the blue status into the Set stage, when you move into getting some actual numbers from your doctor or from another healthcare provider that tells you what your blood pressure is, your body mass index, or your weight for your height, and then looking at blood tests, such as blood glucose and cholesterol, things that most people are familiar with.
Once you had that that Set phase, then you’ve moved into the bronze category of Humana Vitality. You’ve also generated something called the Vitality Age, which takes the information that you’ve put in in your health assessment, combined with the information you get from your doctor, and tells you how you’re living today. So you may be a 38-year- old, for example, but you may have some health risks or some unhealthy lifestyles, that means you’re living as a say, a 42-year-old. And we find that to be a really valuable and motivating way to bring future risks into the present so that you know now that the things you’re doing now are causing you to really live older.
We then move from Ready to Set to Go. And the goal phase is a series of personalized goals that, again, are based on what you’ve told us or what you’ve shown through your biometrics, what you need to work on, and what works for you. It also generates not just a single pathway, but a number of pathways that you can set up to see progress, whether it’s weight loss, or taking a course in stress management, or taking nutritional courses or having particular activity goals. Those can all be set up. And once those are set up, then you can start earning the sort of the final phase in this progress. And you earn points by doing the activities. Well, you earn points by taking the health assessment and getting your blood measurements done. But then you earn points by making progress towards your goals. Those points correspond both to the status that I’d mentioned so you can start to move into silver and gold, and then ultimately platinum status.
The status, which we think itself is motivating, also corresponds to a level of discount that you get in the Vitality Mall. Once you start earning these points, these points are translatable into what we call Vitality Bucks. And those books are redeemable in the Vitality Mall, which is a wide-ranging online mall that allows you to cash in your Vitality Bucks for movie tickets if you’re into more immediate gratification, or for things like iPads or golf clubs or vacation discounts, if you’re a saver, and then shooting for an ultimate goal. And within that mall, again, if you’re a platinum member, what the mall items cost you in terms of Vitality Bucks is lower than if you were looking at the same item as say a bronze member.
What I like about it is that it really relates to today’s parents and has the tech component. Also, the point system is not like some other programs, where the points are associated with foods. So you can kind of become a little food obsessed, whereas with this, you’re actually working towards something that’s not food related.
Tom: I think that’s exactly right. One of the things that the online experience allows us to do is to link it to mobile devices. So there are our fitness apps and other apps that members have access to where they can track their activity, they can follow what their latest vitality score is, and really be able to keep that within a busy lifestyle.
There’s also something I think of interest for moms and dads, and that’s the Vitality Kids Program which is embedded within the Humana Vitality program. And it consists of a similar series of steps where there’s a kid’s health assessment, where Mom or Dad can go over a child’s health activities and health behaviors, and in a fairly brief way, give overviews and give some tips and costs and discussion to happen within families. There’s also a rewards program for kids; they don’t have direct access to the mall that they can collect points that support the family’s status and ultimately, the family’s bucks through ordinary childhood preventive measures. So having your flu vaccine, for example, or having your well child checkup. And then there are points that are rewarded for kids participating in kids’ activities, or even in activities with Mom or Dad. So a 5k, if that’s appropriate for a child, can be a rewardable moment for a child. So we see this really bringing families together around health and nutrition and all sorts of wellness topics.
It’s a new form of quality time.
I think so. I think that’s a great way to put it.
Now, Liz, how are you involved in Humana Vitality?
I’m a dietitian, and I have a partner Janice Bissex, where we’re cookbook authors and bloggers. We joined forces with Humana vitality last year to create 15 makeover recipes which are available to Humana Vitality members. Those recipes are really family favorites that we reworked to make healthier and to create new ideas for families, looking at what the current trends are, whether it be oats and oatmeal, or cooking with quinoa for people moving in that gluten free direction. So those recipes are really designed with the busy mom in mind. I’m a mom of two and Janice is a mom of two as well. We’re looking for quick and easy but we’re also looking for real ingredients that are accessible and affordable to busy moms and having four kids between us we have a lot of taste testers.
Do you have a favorite?
Liz: I would say my personal favorite is a mac and cheese makeover which incorporates low fat cheese but lots of ingredients to boost the flavor because when you take a lot of the fat out you have to bring flavor elsewhere. We use things like low sodium soy sauce to give it some flavor and also there’s spinach in there, but it just all gets blended in. It’s yummy and delicious especially with whole grain pasta.
Bria: The impetus for our joining forces with Liz was the Vitality Healthy Food Program. So, back in September, Humana Vitality announced a partnership with Walmart, where people who are Vitality members and go shopping in their local Walmart can use their Vitality healthy food card, and they earn 5% savings on Walmart Great For You items while they’re shopping in this store. So Liz and Janice were really helpful in bringing that partnership to life for us. So all the recipes that we have include Great For You items. And that’s the Walmart standard seal of approval that something is healthy. It’s been reviewed by a board of nutritionists that work with Walmart as well.
Liz: The great thing about the Great For You foods is that they are real foods, and it’s not like low-fat, fake foods — it’s fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and low fat cheeses. They are items that Janice I actually went and purchased in order to test the recipes. But it’s value-added foods; it’s foods that have good nutrition inherently in their core.
Tom: I think two barriers to eating healthier, eating better is just information. There’s a lot of information out there; there’s a lot of labeling, and that’s very helpful. But when you’re busy and rushing off to get the meal preparation item, it’s hard to spend a lot of time reading all the labels. So this Great For You label does a lot of that work for you. There’s some excellent nutritional science behind it that’s being refreshed all the time, trying to stay as current as possible, because we know that changes. But the second thing that is a barrier to eating healthier is cost oftentimes. Foods that are heavily processed and produced can be offered at a lower cost than foods that are fresher, like vegetables and so forth. And so this 5% savings really helps to lower that barrier between foods that we don’t think are as good for you and foods that are great for you, according to the label. So that’s a real important part of the partnership that Humana Vitality has with Walmart, which is really a one-of-a-kind partnership in the country.
It’s springtime, which is the perfect time to start getting out and moving more. How does Humana Vitality build on that?
Bria: Let’s say that your kid is doing soccer. When you start to track it, and you get that positive reinforcement back, it’s such a huge motivator to take that next step to say, “Hey, let’s try this recipe,” or “Let’s go for that walk together.” And for me, especially with the moms that I hear from, it’s the small steps taken gradually that really count.
Tom: And I think, too, the notion of this being personalized and comprehensive, but the one thing I haven’t given great detail to is the notion of verifiability. Not only is that important for us to be able to know that people are truly engaging in healthy activities, but it’s important for moms and dads and families to have that reminder. I’m a father of six kids and so we have a busy household. There are days and really even weeks that I’ll go through, and I noticed that I haven’t undertaken activity and something that this program has done is to help me with my kids, partly through their desire to see the platinum family status, and to have rewards that they’re working towards.
When you look at a monthly calendar, after you’ve uploaded your activity for the day or week, and see gaps in it, you have a sobering reminder that as hard as you think you’re working, you could probably put a few more steps in your day, take a couple of more opportunities to take a workout. And all those things are helpful reminders and motivators that we see a lot of people talking about in the program which makes those verifiable elements such a crucial part of the Humana Vitality program.
We also have our Humana Beginnings program, which is a prenatal all the way through postpartum period program that helps moms guide themselves through pregnancy. It’s a program that that our nurses run — the participants have a direct line to a nurse who helps coordinate the prepartum care and all the way through postpartum care, looking at nutrition, looking at activity, looking at the standard medical things that moms need to be aware of during pregnancy. And then, even after pregnancy, things like postpartum depression come into play. We’re also expanding to all those, all those participation points are rewardable points within Humana Vitality. That’s our attempt to really meet people where they are and become as personalized as possible.