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Two people in yellow winter jackets, carrying skis, walk together in a snowy landscape.

Health Connections expands in 2007 to include every spouse or same-sex domestic partner who is also covered by the UPlan Medical Program. They'll be able to earn financial rewards for health improvement, too.

Health Connections expands in 2007

By Susan Wiese

Brief, Feb. 7, 2007

This time last winter, U employee Ellen Reed (not her real name) decided to participate in Health Connections because she wanted her clothes to fit better. The 45-year-old mom with a mostly sedentary job also wanted to stop feeling winded after climbing stairs. Reed agreed to share how she improved her health habits and changed her lifestyle.

Connect to better health through Health Connections

UPlan Wellness Assessment

StayWell Health Management,

Health coaching by phone
Harris HealthTrends Resource Center,

What started Reed down the path to better health was the feedback she got after completing the online UPlan Wellness Assessment. Her results triggered a phone call from a nutritionist at Harris HealthTrends, Inc., the independent, third-party administrator of Health Connections. Working with the health coach over the phone throughout the year led to dramatic changes in Reed's eating habits and a marked increase in her daily physical activity. For what she achieved, and as a UPlan Medical Program member, Reed earned two $65 wellness rewards.

My pedometer, my healer

The HealthPartners 10,000 Steps program was announced just before I went on a medical leave for major surgery. My doctor said walking would be one important thing I could do to speed my recovery, so I signed up for the program and got a pedometer. Two weeks after the surgery, I put it on. My three-day average was really low--fewer than 3,000 steps. So I set an eight-week goal of 8,000 steps.

Wearing my pedometer and keeping track of my steps every day made sure that I really was gradually getting more exercise each day. It also helped me identify how much was too much on some days. The daily tracker turned into an amazing journal of my recovery, and I easily made my goal--plus I felt great!

Jumping to 10,000 steps a day turned out to be harder. By that time, I was back at work. I found out how hard it is to get 10,000 steps in an average day at my desk job. But I also found out that, for me, I walk about 1,000 steps per 10 minutes, so I'm better at calculating how to get my 10,000 steps. And my medical leave helped me establish a habit that I'm motivated to maintain. I find myself craving walks, even when it's cold outside.

I've discovered walking as transportation. I live about three miles from the U, and there's no better way to meet my goal than walking home from work. Now I'm saving bus money, too! Thank you!

U employee, Twin Cities

In the coming months, Reed hopes to persuade her husband to join her in taking advantage of essentially the same opportunities for health improvement from UPlan Wellness.

In 2007, every active University employee who is a UPlan member and every spouse or same-sex domestic partner (who is also covered by the UPlan Medical Program) will each be able to earn financial rewards for health improvement. That can add up to four $65 wellness rewards, or $260 per couple.

Murray Harber
Murray L. Harber became the UPlan Wellness program manager in October. He formerly served as supervisor and manager of the wellness program for Hennepin County employees. Photo by Don Breneman.

"Of more than 8,000 employees who completed the online wellness assessment in its first year of operation, more than 5,000 went on to enroll in one kind of health improvement program or another," says Murray Harber, who was named program manager for UPlan Wellness in October.

"By expanding Health Connections in 2007 to include the spouses or partners of our employees, we hope to generate even more interest in being and staying healthy," he says.

Research shows that family members can be instrumental in bringing about change in health habits.

"Encouragement and support from a spouse or partner increases the likelihood not only that positive change will occur, but that healthier behaviors will be sustained over time," says Harber.

Log-in, learn, and earn

Every UPlan member and his or her spouse or same-sex partner--if also a UPlan member--can receive $65 after connecting to and completing the confidential UPlan Wellness Assessment by April 30, 2007. To get started, go to

After taking the wellness assessment, a Health Connections participant is eligible to receive a second $65 wellness reward when he or she

Dependents of UPlan members who are 16 years or older can participate, as well, but they don't qualify to receive financial rewards.

Update on 10,000 Steps

More than 4,500 University employees are currently enrolled in the 10,000 Steps program from HealthPartners.

If you're one of them, you may have questions about how to continue or get re-started. Find answers at Health Connections.

Susan Wiese is the UPlan Wellness communications project manager.