Volunteer ‘wellness champions’ help Emory employees flourish

Emory Report | May 20, 2021

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Wellness champions work with fellow employees across the Emory community to promote health and well-being in a variety of ways. Employees who are interested in learning more can join the next Wellness Champion webinar on May 26. “Walking on Wednesdays” participants are shown here prior to the pandemic.

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Healthy Emory

Since 2013, more than 300 Emory employees have volunteered with Healthy Emory as wellness champions, helping to promote health and well-being in their individual departments and schools.

These employee volunteers from both Emory University and Emory Healthcare encourage healthy behaviors by educating their colleagues on wellness-related resources and activities at Emory and by assisting with launching, marketing and sustaining Emory’s wellness programs such as the Move More Challenge. Part of Healthy Emory’s vision is to “engage, inspire and support each individual to live healthy and flourish.” This is at the heart of what wellness champions do.

Using their creativity and innovation, wellness champions develop and implement their own unique wellness programs that will work best for their employees. Some examples include designing incentives to take the stairs, organizing a gratitude board, creating a book swap or providing healthy snacks in breakrooms. Wellness champions also help promote ongoing Healthy Emory programs and challenges by developing supplemental programs alongside them, such as hosting meal tasting events during the annual nutritional challenge, Operation Eat Right.

“Regardless of their favorite ways to support Healthy Emory and their coworkers, our wellness champions always enjoy going out of their way to encourage the health and well-being of those around them,” says Jim Jadallah, senior wellness manager. 

Connie Allen, a wellness champion at the Winship Cancer Institute, routinely helps her colleagues sign up for Healthy Emory Connect, shows them how to sync their steps using the wellness app and explains how to earn points toward a medical plan incentive.

“Balancing what you do for your own health, for other people’s health and for your job seems like it would be difficult to handle, but it turns out to not be as hard as you imagine because of all the support you get from the Healthy Emory staff,” Allen says. “They make it easy to promote wellness by making the programs fun, flexible, simple and quick.” 

Some wellness champions have their own health struggles, so they understand what is needed to help others achieve success.

Gillian Landgraff, a wellness champion in Human Resources, says she was in denial about gaining the “COVID 15” [pounds] until a weigh-in at the end of January confirmed her suspicion. She began tracking her food using the MyFitnessPal app and started participating in challenges using the Healthy Emory Connect app.

“I have a sweet tooth, so participating in the Fruit for Dessert Challenge really helped,” explains Landgraff. Her perseverance has paid off and she has lost at least half of the weight she gained during the pandemic.

As a wellness champion, Landgraff uses the new ideas and tools available through Healthy Emory to help her own colleagues get back to the basics of wellness and to create a fresh start when they get off track. “You don’t have to change everything,” she says. “Just a few small changes over a period of time can make an impact for you and those you are helping.”

How you can get involved

Healthy Emory is always recruiting new wellness champions. Employees who are interested in helping others take advantage of wellness opportunities at Emory or just want to jumpstart their own wellness journey can complete these three simple steps:

1. Request and complete a wellness champion application.
2. Get a supervisor approval form completed.
3. Meet with a Healthy Emory team member for orientation.

The next wellness champion webinar will be Wednesday, May 26, at 12:30 p.m. Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a wellness champion can register for the webinar or contact Healthy Emory to ask questions and start the application process.