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The Secret to Milwaukee’s Health Care, Wellness, and Safety Success
The Secret to Milwaukee’s Health Care, Wellness, and Safety Success
Wisconsin municipality serves as an inspiring wellness example 

By Theresa Islo, program manager for the University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness Management

The City of Milwaukee recently shared its secret of success in managing the cost of health care at the national Health Care Benefits Conference and Expo.

From 2006 to 2011, the Wisconsin city saw healthcare costs climb, and city administration decided to do something about it. Through employee wellness and benefit strategies, as well as safety and risk management, they developed new strategies and engaged external partners in an effort that has and will continue to reap significant rewards for employees and their families.

Consider these highlights from the initiative and how Milwaukee’s story could benefit your organization.
1.Build consensus. Early on, the initiative’s leaders formed a joint labor and management committee, known as the Wellness Program and Labor Management Wellness Committee. It was responsible for developing a wellness program and coordinating with the unions.
  1. Identify key partners. Several vendors, including a local healthcare system, an employee benefit consultant, and a healthcare administrator, provided services and expertise for the initiative. Together, the committee and vendors created a comprehensive wellness program and revamped their healthcare benefit plan design.
  2. On-site services. Initiative leaders found space to establish a wellness center and also started a diabetes prevention program. Within two years, the center expanded to include a medical clinic, and a pilot physical therapy program had begun for injury prevention in the Department of Public Works.
  3. Consider safety. Concurrently, leaders began to address safety issues through a new risk management program that included some health and wellness components.
Throughout this process, leaders continually assessed their progress and made changes to address issues. Milwaukee’s wellness initiative produced outstanding results: no increase in healthcare plan costs over five years and $28 million in avoided costs in workers compensation.

City leaders in this initiative shared what they learned:
  • Collaborate early and often with other public entities
  • Have patience for large-scale change with a skeptical audience
  • Own mistakes that occur (and you are bound to have them)
  • Provide consistent messaging in multiple ways to reach all communication styles
More information from the earlier stages of their initiative is available in the 2013 case study provided through Well City Milwaukee, http://www.wellcitymilwaukee.com/media/mediafile_attachments/09/29-cityofmilwuakeecasestudy6.pdf

Take the next step
Want to be part of a success story and make a real difference in your organization’s wellness program? Complete your bachelor’s degree online with University of Wisconsin Health and Wellness Management. You could become a knowledgeable and respected wellness leader in as little as two years.

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