Implementing a wellness champion strategy: Easy, evidence-based and effective

As the employee well-being space evolves and matures, we are seeing more employers try to capitalize on the intrinsic motivations of health influencers by creating wellness champion networks. These networks are largely comprised of volunteer employees who have a passion for health and well-being and want to support their employer in a culture of wellness.

Champions are great because they are on site with employees every day, facing choices about food, exercise, stress management and the general business of life’s ordinary daily obligations. A champion has the opportunity to influence nudges and cues in the local work environment and be a voice for well-being.

So how can employers build a network that is easy for volunteers, driven by data and evidence-based information, and be effective at achieving the human capital goals?

Employers can start by thinking about key components of their wellness champion network and dedicate the support and resources to maintain that network. A study of a large university system’s champion network broke the support down into key components areas: recruitment, training, leadership support, and strategy and tools. When identified and developed, the university was able to scale its program to retain 464 participants.1


Ease administrative burdens for your passion-driven volunteers by supporting them with ready-to-go engagement materials. It’s like a home-delivered meal kit: all the right ingredients in all the right amounts — just assemble and go!

Data driven/evidence-based

Employers need to source and provide evidence-based engagement programs that meet the needs of their local champion cultures. Without guidance, champions can become overwhelmed and even misled by internet searches that promote fad diets and other questionable approaches. For optimal participation, be sure that your programs are focused on driving health literacy and sustainable behavior change.


Having a mission and vision statement for your culture of health and champion program supports alignment across your network and your business goals. Leadership support from the C-suite to the managers is important. The leadership shadow that is cast can create a space for champions to flourish — or send the message that it doesn’t really matter.

While champion programs are still working toward determining successful impact on specific health and wellness outcomes, in our experience, employers using champion networks agree that the effect on the culture of health and employee satisfaction is significant.

To learn how Optum can help you establish a wellness champion network at your business, please visit

About the author:

Heather MacAyeal HardyHeather MacAyeal Hardy, CHC AADP
Director, On-Site Health Promotion and Wellness Coaching, Prevention Solutions

Heather is certified Health and Wellness Coach and the Product Director for Health Promotion and Wellness Coaching for Optum Prevention Solutions and leads the product innovation and engagement capabilities. Under her product capabilities, on-site staff help our customers enhance their consumer health engagement and company culture to drive health ownership through thoughtful and engaging solutions to influence positive behavior change that ultimately affect our client’s population health. Heather joined Optum On-Site Services in 2014 and has served both as a Coach and Health Promotion Specialist in the field prior to taking on the product leadership role. Her work with opioid awareness campaigns and corporate wellness strategy has earned her clients local and national recognition.

1 Amaya M, Melnyk B, Buffington B, Battista L. Workplace wellness champions: Lessons learned and implications for future programming. Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal. 2017. 1. 59. 10.18061/bhac.v1i1.5744.


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