Get Healthy Now offers 51 wellness and holistic programs throughout all three campuses.
Get Healthy Now offers 51 wellness and holistic programs throughout all three campuses.

As the University of Louisville navigates an extreme budget shortfall, many departments and units have come up with a variety of creative solutions to stay afloat without making staff or programmatic cuts. Get Healthy Now is no different.

Starting immediately, the wellness center will switch to a fee-based membership of $15  a month for UofL faculty and staff. Members will be able to sign up for auto withdrawal through payroll if they so wish.

Patricia Benson, AVP for Health, Wellness and Disease Management.
Patricia Benson, AVP for Health, Wellness and Disease Management, signs up for GHN membership.

To offset the fee-based membership, GHN is opening up all the activity classes, including “specialty classes” (yoga, Pilates, etc.), to wellness center participants as part of the membership package. Also, incentives – such as a lower rate for those who visit the wellness center more frequently – are currently being explored to lessen the blow of this change.

Patricia Benson, AVP for Health, Wellness and Disease Management, said this was not an easy decision to make, especially since free membership has long been a perk of working at UofL. But, she says GHN worked to keep the price as low as possible, and well below market price.

“In doing our research, we realized no other gym or wellness center offers their services for free, not even other universities do this – as discovered through benchmarking industry comparison,” she said.

For example, Planet Fitness charges between $10 and $19.99 a month, while more comprehensive (and comparable) programs such as the Jewish Community Center ($48-$58/month) and Baptist East Milestone ($80/month) charge more for similar services. 

“The Get Healthy Now Wellness Center is a vital resource for the university and community as a whole during a time when preventative healthcare and active disease management resources are sadly lacking in our state, among the most unhealthy in the nation,” said GHN member Paul Salmon, associate professor of Clinical Psychology. “I know of no other health, wellness or fitness facility for adults in the Louisville community that offers such an outstanding array of benefits to its members.”

Prior to implementing the monthly fee, GHN solicited feedback from some members, many of whom expressed frustration over the proposed change. Benson said she understands where they’re coming from and is empathetic of morale issues.

“We kept our membership rate as low as possible and will continue to look for ways to minimize cost while maximizing value. This is critical to our mission of building a sustainable wellness program with measurable and meaningful impact to the organization and each employee we serve,” Benson said. “We have never lost sight of that goal and the associated objectives of healthcare cost containment, culture of health and wellbeing, and empowering each employee to champion their health.”

During the transition, the GHN Wellness Center Advisory Committee is seeking sponsorship opportunities for membership assistance should an employee need it.

“We simply can’t and won’t allow cost to be a barrier for participation. This is important to us and we will find a way to assist every employee seeking access to the wellness center,” she said.

GHN is currently transitioning the non-fee members through the end of this calendar year. Incentives, such as pedometers, heart rate monitors, work-out shoes, massages, t-shirts, an Apple watch, and a bike, are a few of the items that an employee may earn on a weekly basis by making the transition prior to the end of 2017. These incentives are courtesy of GHN sponsors Schellers and Health Fitness Corp.

GHN employees are ready to assist current members with this transition and have also been registering new employees on-site. Benson is also asking anyone who has additional questions or concerns to contact her directly at 852-1907.

“I understand why people are upset,” she said. “But we have to do a better job educating employees about our objectives. We’re more than just a gym. We are focused on preventative health benefits and saving our employees money on their health in the long term.”

Cost covers comprehensive offerings

For example, for the $15/month fee, GHN Wellness Center offers a plethora of wellness resources such as one-on-one on-site health and wealth coaching, health screenings, fitness evaluations with individualized plans, professional and certified staff, including a nurse and nurse practitioner, and more.

GHN also offers 51 wellness and holistic programs, such as mindfulness and meditation, yoga/Pilates classes, educational lunch and learns, “on-demand” programs and wellness support for departmental meetings/retreats. There is also a full schedule of campus and community events, including the benefit fair on the Belknap Campus for October’s Open Enrollment

In 2016 alone, GHN offered more than 400 onsite wellness coaching sessions, 183 personal training sessions, 441 biometric screenings and nearly 5,000 health assessments (half of UofL’s workforce), as summarized in the year-in-review infographic

“Although we are implementing a wellness center fee, many of the resources and services we offer will continue to be available at no cost to the employee,” Benson said.

For more about GHN, check out this UofL Today with Mark Hebert segment.

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Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is editor of UofLNews and UofL Today. She joined UofL in 2015 as communications director of the Brandeis School of Law. Prior, she was the editorial director of foodservice media for Networld Media Group, where her work was featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine. She continues to serve as a contributor for many publications, including QSRweb.com, FastCasual.com and Innovation Leader.