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Arkansas Healthy Employee Lifestyle Program (AHELP)

Implementation

Main Components:  AHELP is a multi-component intervention with a public policy at its core.  The policy, Act 724 of 2005 states that:

  • An employee may be granted paid leave of up to three (3) days per calendar year for participating in AHELP and earning target levels of points for engaging in healthy behaviors. 
    • The leave shall be used in the calendar year in which it was earned.
    • The leave is not compensable at termination.
  • Each agency shall identify and maintain, if practicable, in or near each agency building, an area or areas that employees may use for walking exercise.

The AHELP intervention includes four main components: Participant enrollment through the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) process; Web-based Monitoring/Tracking; Employee Education and Support; and Incentive Awards.

Health Risk Assessment (HRA)
Employees who are interested in participating in the AHELP intervention complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) prior to enrolling in the AHELP program. The HRA is an electronic, confidential assessment tool that generates a health report to the individual regarding their health status based on their personal data. 

Web-based Monitoring and Tracking
Employees may elect to enroll in the web-based monitoring and tracking system and log their healthy behaviors to earn points for these lifestyle behavior changes.  Points are awarded for:

  • Engaging in physical activity,
  • Consuming fruits and vegetables,
  • Obtaining age-appropriate health screenings, 
  • Remaining tobacco free, and
  • Taking the Health Risk Assessment annually.

The tracking system was developed specifically for the AHELP program.  It is housed on an INTRAnet site available only to state employees and is a password protected data base.

Employee Education and Support

AHELP Coordinators:
An individual at each worksite serves as an AHELP coordinator.  Each coordinator works together with AHELP administrators to promote the AHELP program by:

  • Encouraging employee participation and support of employee efforts;
  • Encouraging and monitoring employee recording of activities into the web-based tracking system;
  • Identifying needs and interests of employees for planned activities, e.g., brown bag lunches and staff development workshops;
  • Organizing and implementing employee educational activities and resources;
  • Promoting and marketing AHELP sponsored events;
  • Distributing incentive prizes; and
  • Completing quarterly reports to AHELP administrators containing information specific to each site, e.g., numbers of participating employees, method of employee involvement, types of programs sponsored by AHELP, types of physical activity opportunities available, and resources needed.

Education:
The educational programs offered as part of the AHELP program include:

  • Nutrition classes/programs,
  • Weight management classes/programs,
  • Tobacco cessation classes/programs,
  • Physical Activity classes/programs, and
  • Employee Newsletters with healthy nutrition and physical activity tips.

Social Support:
The AHELP program offers multiple activities that foster social support among employees though challenges and group activities.  Some examples include:

  • Arkansas Fitness Challenge – Initiative developed through a partnership with Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and Arkansas Department of Health under the umbrella of Healthy Arkansas.  The Arkansas Fitness Challenge organized multiple walking groups. 
  • Walk Across Arkansas – Statewide physical activity program organized by Arkansas Cooperative Extension to encourage participants to increase the number of steps taken each day in order to promote health

Walking Areas:
The implementation of areas for walking varies across agencies and physical locations. Several sites have mapped walking paths outside around the building or indoors; few sites have both.  Some sites have identified a fitness room within the building.  The state drafted rules and waivers to facilitate the use of fitness rooms within state agencies. In some cases, treadmills have been put in place and in other cases walking videos are available in the fitness room. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality included a fitness room and a walking path that connects with a larger network of paths and parks when they built their new building.

Incentive Awards:
Employees may redeem earned points for incentives including: days off from work as approved in Act 724 of 2005; recognition in the employee newsletter; and other prizes including exercise resistance bands, t-shirts, gym bags, pedometers, and passes for lodging at any state park.   In order to earn incentives, participating employees must meet the requirements for BOTH total number of points earned AND the timeframe during which they are earned.  The necessary points for redemption must have been earned within the 52 weeks prior to the date of requesting/redeeming the points.  The web-based tracking system determines if points were earned during the allowable time frame when the employee requests an incentive.

Keys to Success

  • Site coordinators present at each site to manage recruitment of participants into the AHELP program, promotion of the AHELP program, compliance with employee completion of Health Risk Assessments (HRAs), completion of surveys to evaluate local implementation, and delivering incentives to AHELP program participants.

  • Site coordinators who are enthusiastic about the AHELP program.

  • State-level champion support from the governor and state representatives to lead the effort toward passage of Act 724 of 2005 to allow incentives to be offered as rewards for participation in the AHELP program.

  • Upper management support from the former and current Directors of Health for Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) for the implementation of the AHELP program at county offices.

  • Passage of Act 724 of 2005 into state law to provide:

    • leave as an incentive for state employees who meet specific participation criteria in the AHELP program

    • other incentives for the improvement of health  of Arkansas employees

    • identification and maintenance of areas to be used for walking exercise at or near each agency building

    • Use of the Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) to track participation and progress toward healthier dietary and physical activity behaviors as part of participation the AHELP program.

    • Use of web-based daily tracking system to record individual dietary and physical activity behaviors in order to calculate points for redemption of incentives.

    • Supervisors that allow their employees to work on a flexible schedule in order to participate in AHELP-related activities.

    • Anonymity of HRA responses; HRA completion rates rose significantly once participants were assured that their information was anonymous (from

    • Orientation of the AHELP program as part of the institutionalized orientation for employees.

    • Establishment of a wellness committee to lead implementation of the AHELP program.

Barriers to Implementation

  • Lack of support in some cases of immediate supervisors and administrator of site.

  • Competing priorities at work and lack of flexibility in employees’ schedules possibly limiting participation in physical activity during the work day.

  • Changes in organizational structure, such as merging and demerging of participating agencies.

  • Consistency of site coordinator completion and submission of monthly site reports.

  • Site coordinator turnover leading to need for multiple regional trainings statewide.

  • Lack of funding from governor to continue to implement the program once it goes statewide (significant funding was provided in-kind during the pilot that will not continue once the program is launched statewide).

  • Lack of funding for ongoing infrastructure and communication between the electronic system of TRALE to the AHELP system making it difficult to accurately link the participant’s HRA to their activities in the AHELP tracking system.