Friday, October 31, 2014


Iowa Watchdog

School employees earn ‘wellness’ dollars without a breaking a sweat

6/27/2014

DES MOINES, Iowa — Employees of the Des Moines Public Schools can forget about “no pain, no gain” when it comes to working out.

Next school year, both the fit and flabby will be eligible to receive a Fitbit, one of the trendiest pieces of workout gear, and the only place the pain might be felt is in the public’s wallet.

DMPS plans to spend $375,000 to provide free Fitbits for employees participating in its Healthy U Wellness Program.

GET YOURS TODAY: Des Moines school employees will get a free Fitbit.

GET YOURS TODAY: Des Moines school employees will get a free Fitbit.

A Fitbit is a wristband that tracks the user’s movements. It’s basically a high-tech pedometer that can also be worn overnight to track the user’s sleep patterns. The information collected is downloaded to the user’s computer to create a record of activity and calories burnt each day.

DM Art Center

“Getting the Fitbit is one way that we can incentivize our employees to think about being more active to maybe use it as a motivational tool,” DMPS Wellness Coordinator Tammy Steinwandt told WHO-TV.

Getting paid $200 for participating in the wellness program may be an even greater motivation, especially since participants in the program won’t have to break a sweat to earn that money.

Just enrolling in the program by having a free biometric scan and filling out an online form gets a fulltime employee $100.

The employee gets another $100 for completing six wellness goals from the more than two dozen options the program offers. Those goals include such things as going to the dentist, watching a webinar and joining a bowling league.

Employees who find those options too strenuous can receive credit for creating their own wellness goal.  “Your Goal, Your Choice, Your Way!” as the program guide puts it.

Although DMPS plans to spend $1.5 million on the Healthy U Wellness Program in the next fiscal year, none of that money will be spent on actually supervising participants. All data on whether goals are being met is self-reported by the participants.

ALL GAIN, NO PAIN: The Des Moines Public School’s Healthy U Wellness Program pays teachers and other school employees for doing such things as sitting in front of a computer and bowling.

ALL GAIN, NO PAIN: The Des Moines Public School’s Healthy U Wellness Program pays teachers and other school employees for doing such things as sitting in front of a computer and bowling.

The program has no fitness benchmarks or other objective measurements of success.

Only fulltime employees are eligible for the whole $200. Part-time employees can earn $100 for participating and will be eligible for Fitbits.

The Healthy U Wellness Program replaced the school system’s previous wellness program that took a more traditional approach to fitness. That program provided a workout facility school system employees and members of the public could use for a fee.

Thanks to the fees the program ran a budget surplus each year. Even though participation in the program had declined, it was still $33,000 in the black when it was discontinued in 2013.

In budget documents, DMPS claims each dollar spent on the new Healthy U Wellness Program will produce $3.24 in healthcare savings.

Nowhere in the documents does DMPS explain how it came up with that oddly precise number for its projected savings.

Iowa Watchdog attempted to contact DMPS Wellness Coordinator Steinwandt to discuss the Healthy U Wellness Program, but multiple phone calls were not returned.

Contact Paul Brennan at pbrennan@watchdog.org. This story originally appeared on Watchdog.org.

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