Category Archives: FAQ

Time is Running Out – Take the WellMASS Health Questionnaire Today!

Loyal readers of this blog know that the WellMASS Health Questionnaire, which is available to GIC-insured employees of the Executive and Legislative branches and Constitutional Offices, is a great resource that helps participants take charge of their health.  The Questionnaire is free, 100% confidential, takes around 10 minutes to fill out, and can be accessed any time on the WellMASS portal at https://wellmass.staywell.com – up until June 30.  The Questionnaire will close at the end of this month, so if you have not taken yours this program year (which began on September 15, 2014), you only have a few more days to do so.

Taking the Health Questionnaire will provide you with a great snapshot of your current health status and, if you’ve taken it in the past, a comparison of how your health has improved from year-to-year.  Your HQ results may also qualify you for free telephonic health coaching, which connects you with a health coach who can provide you with personalized, one-on-one guidance and recommendations to get you on the road to practicing healthy behaviors.  Additionally, anyone who takes the HQ before it closes on June 30 will receive a deluxe WellMASS gym bag.

If you haven’t gotten around to taking your HQ yet this year, there’s no better time than now to do so.  And while you’re at it, feel free to take advantage of the other great tools and resources available on the WellMASS portal.  All it takes is a few minutes to become more aware and proactive about your health.

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Where to Look for Credible Wellness Information

Last week, I presented a series of questions you should ask yourself whenever you review a new piece of wellness information to determine if that information is in fact credible.  If you’d like an even easier way to find reputable information, all you need to do is search for it in one of the following places:

Finding credible wellness-related information doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, as long as you know where to look and what to look for.  The next time you need to search for information, or encounter an article or website about which you have questions, use the guide provided last week and the resources you see here to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate information possible.

Sources of Wellness Information – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As a reader of the WellMASS blog, you can rest assured that the information presented here is evidence-based, meaning it has sound scientific research to back it up.  However, you probably also get wellness information from other places, not all of which may be as credible as you think.  It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether or not the information you read on the internet or hear from a friend has been scientifically proven or is just an opinion.  Fortunately, with a little detective work and some careful searching and evaluating, it is entirely possible to sort out the good wellness information from the not-so-good.  The next time you read a wellness article or hear a wellness tip, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you easily see who sponsors the source? It should be clear where the information you’re reading is coming from, and the ‘sponsor’ should be a reputable organization, such as the ones below.
  • Is the sponsor a government agency, a medical school, or a reliable health-related organization, or is it affiliated with one of these? These organizations are often at the forefront of wellness-related research, and they are held accountable for the information they put out.
  • Is the author’s contact information listed? If there is no contact information listed for the author of an article or website, it might mean they don’t want you to get in touch with them to question the information they provided.
  • Can you tell when the information was written? Health and wellness recommendations change constantly, thanks to new and ongoing research developments.  You’ll want to look for information that has been updated in the past two years, as older information might be outdated.  In general, the more recently an article or website was updated or reviewed, the more accurate information it should contain.
  • Is your privacy protected? All credible websites contain privacy statements.  If a site doesn’t, you have no way of knowing how any information you provide, including your search history within the site, is used.
  • Does the source make claims that seem too good to be true? Are quick, miraculous cures promised? Any claim that seems too good to be true probably is, especially if there isn’t any evidence-based research to back it up.  Remember, there is no magic bullet for good health.

If you answered ‘yes’ to the first five questions, and ‘no’ to the last one, chances are that you’re getting your wellness information from a credible source.  If your source now appears less-than-credible, there are several places you can search for new information that are guaranteed to provide you with the evidence-based facts you need.  Stay tuned next week for a list of these sources.

Looking for Ways to Shop Healthier? NutriSavings Can Help!

If you’re trying to make healthier purchases at the grocery store, you may not know where to start, as grocery shopping can be a pretty overwhelming task by itself.  If you’ve ever sought out advice on how to shop healthier, you may have received one of the following basic tips:

  • Shop the perimeter of the store. The healthiest foods are often kept in the outside aisles; most junk food lurks on the inside shelves.
  • Make a list – and stick to it. It’s harder to deviate from a plan to purchase healthy foods if you’re prepared.
  • Don’t shop hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to eat with your eyes and give into impulse buys for unhealthy items.

These tips are a good starting point toward making healthier grocery store purchases, but they leave a lot of room for error, as it can sometimes be difficult to determine which foods are actually healthy.  If you need some assistance in this department, WellMASS can help.  If you are one of the first 5,000 people to take your Health Questionnaire at https://wellmass.staywell.com by December 19, 2014, you’ll qualify for a 6-month subscription, beginning January 1, 2015, to NutriSavings, an online nutrition education and grocery discount program that will provide you with all the information you need to make truly healthy purchases at the grocery store.  NutriSavings is an innovative program that’s not available to members of the general public – it’s only available to those VIPs who take their Health Questionnaire!

The concept behind NutriSavings is simple – users register their grocery store loyalty cards, and every time they make a purchase with those cards, that purchase is scored for its nutritional value, and healthier options are recommended.  Prior to each shopping trip, users also have the ability to activate a plethora of exclusive money-saving offers on wholesome food and beverage items and access  over  150 healthy recipes and practical tips from nutritionists, as well as earn cash-back rewards just for purchasing healthy items.  The money earned from purchasing items will be available for transfer to users’ checking or PayPal accounts.  By using NutriSavings, you’ll not only receive information to help you make healthier purchases, but money for doing so!

Several local grocery stores participate in the NutriSavings program, including Shaws, Star Market, Stop & Shop, Roche Brothers, Hannaford, and Wegmans.  If you shop at any of these stores, you can register your loyalty cards for one or all of them.  If you don’t have a loyalty card, the NutriSavings website provides directions on how to obtain one.  If your grocery store of choice is not currently in the NutriSavings network, you can still take advantage of the program by searching through an online database of over 100,000 products to pick out healthier choices prior to a shopping trip.  As mentioned above, the NutriSavings website also offers hundreds of healthy recipes and nutrition tips.

If you have a smartphone, you can download the NutriSavings app, which will give you instant access to nutrition scores and information via its barcode scanner, so you won’t have to wait until after you’ve made your purchases to find out how healthy they are or if there are better choices.

I’ve been using NutriSavings for around six months, and I can’t believe how much I have learned about the foods that I buy.  As a nutritionist, I know a lot about food, but I don’t always have the time to read labels and ingredients lists as thoroughly as I’d like.  NutriSavings does the hard work for me and provides me with easy-to-understand scores and quick nutrition facts about the items in my grocery cart; seeing that I’m making the right choices, and earning money for doing so, certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

If you’d like to learn more about NutriSavings, WellMASS will be hosting a webinar with Paul Gilpin, NutriSavings’ Director of Business Development, on Tuesday, November 18 at 10:00 and 1:00.  There is no need to RSVP for the webinar; simply log onto http://lifemasters.readytalk.com and call 1-866-740-1260 and enter access code 7243537.  If you can’t make the webinars, or want to hear more about my first-hand experience with NutriSavings, feel free to send me an email.

Be SMART and Enroll in Health Coaching

One of the perks of taking your WellMASS Health Questionnaire is that your results may qualify you for FREE telephonic or mail-based health coaching.  If your HQ results show that you are high-risk in at least one wellness category, you will be invited to opt into a personalized coaching program.

In order to determine if you are eligible for coaching, after completing your Questionnaire, click on the Programs tab and click the Health Coaching box to see the list of programs you can choose.  Health Coaching programs are available for eight different topics:

  • Back care
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Weight Management

Once you’ve chosen the program in which you’d like to enroll, click the Let’s Go! button next to that program or call the StayWell Helpline at 1-800-926-5455.  If you select a mail-based coaching program, information on your topic of choice will be sent to your home address.  If you’d like a more personalized approach, you can choose to enroll in telephonic coaching, where you’ll be able to specify the days and times that work best to talk to a coach.  Your coach will call you on a regular basis to help you develop an action plan to meet your wellness goals and check in to see how you’re progressing.

One of the key areas on which your coach will ask you to focus is goal-setting.  In order to have the greatest chance of achieving your goals, no matter what they are, you will need to come up with a SMART plan to which you can hold yourself accountable.  If you’re interested in participating in health coaching, or you’re about to begin a coaching program, it’s never too early to start thinking about your goals in SMART terms.  Creating a smart goal or plan is easy!  You’ll want to make your goal:

Specific
Measurable
Action-Oriented
Realistic
Time-Restrained

Your health coach will help you begin your journey toward setting and achieving SMART goals.  If one of your general goals is to improve your overall health and well-being, don’t delay – take your Health Questionnaire and see if you qualify for health coaching!

Earn Incentives for Taking the WellMASS Health Questionnaire

If you haven’t already taken the WellMASS Health Questionnaire (HQ), which launched last Monday, don’t delay – the sooner you take the HQ, the more incentives you’ll receive.  Although the HQ will be open until June 30, 2015, the window to receive incentives for taking it is much shorter.

If you take the HQ before January 31, 2015, you will receive:

  • Your choice of a $20 gift card or a deluxe gym bag. The gift card can be redeemed at one of over 300 different retailers, and the gym bag features multiple pockets for your water bottle, smelly sneakers, and more.
This lovely gym bag could be yours...

This lovely gym bag could be yours…

  • Entry into a monthly raffle for an iPad. The raffles will take place from September – January, and you’ll be entered into the raffle each month beginning the month you take the HQ.  So, if you take the HQ this month, you’ll be entered into the iPad raffle every month through January!

Additionally, the first 5,000 employees who complete the HQ before December 19, 2014 will also receive a six-month subscription to NutriSavings,  an easy, fun and exciting nutrition-focused wellness program that helps you make healthy choices while shopping in the grocery store.  Employees enroll online or from their smartphones, register their shopper loyalty cards and earn “cash back rewards” on the purchase of healthy foods in the grocery store!  Easily accessed online or on your mobile device 24/7, NutriSavings also educates participants by providing a variety of healthy recipes and an array of articles and tips on good nutrition.  Employees who qualify for this incentive will be eligible to log onto NutriSavings beginning January 1, 2015.  I am so excited about the addition of NutriSavings to the WellMASS program that I’ll be handing over the reins of the blog to the NutriSavings team in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for more information about this great new incentive!

The WellMASS Health Questionnaire is designed to help you take charge of your health, and incentives for doing so certainly don’t hurt.  Whatever your reason for taking the HQ, I encourage you to take it as soon as possible so you can start taking advantage of all the WellMASS program has to offer!

The WellMASS Health Questionnaire Is Here – Take Yours Today!

This week marks the launch of the new and improved WellMASS Health Questionnaire. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be providing you with information about the Questionnaire and the exciting new features of the GIC’s WellMASS wellness program. To start, I’ll answer a question I often get asked: “What is the Health Questionnaire, and why should I take it?”

The Health Questionnaire, or HQ, is a 10-minute assessment that provides you with a snapshot of your current health status and resources to take charge of your own health and wellness. The Health Questionnaire asks you a series of questions related to health behaviors such as nutrition, stress, and physical activity and provides you with personalized recommendations based on your results. In addition to the incentives you can earn just by taking the HQ (more on those next week), you’ll benefit from taking it in the following ways:

  • You’ll receive a wellness “score” and see how you rate nationally with others your same age and gender
  • You’ll discover your top 3 wellness priorities
  • You will be provided with health recommendations unique to you
  • If you took the WellMASS Health Assessment in the past, you can take it again this year to see how you’ve improved from year-to-year
  • Based on your results, you may qualify for free telephonic or mail-based health coaching
  • You’ll have access to the other great information on the WellMASS portal, including online classrooms, a prescription drug database, and wellness-related tools and calculators

The WellMASS Health Questionnaire is available to GIC-insured employees of the Executive and Legislative Branches and Constitutional Offices. It can be accessed by going to https://wellmass.staywell.com on your computer or smartphone. Since it only takes 10 minutes, it’s easy to take anytime, anywhere, so why wait? Take yours today to take the first step toward better health!

The WellMASS Health Assessment is Now Open – Take Yours Today!

Today marks the re-launch of the online WellMASS Health Assessment (HA).  Completing  the HA is a great way to take charge of your health by learning your areas of strength, as well as which areas you may want to work on improving.  Taking the HA is a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • It only takes 15 minutes to complete
  • Your results are 100% confidential and won’t be shared with the GIC, your agency, or your health plan
  • It provides a snapshot of your current health
  • It helps you determine which health areas/behaviors need more attention
  • If you took it last year, you can take it again and get a year-over-year comparison
  • Your results may qualify you for FREE health coaching
  • The first 10,000 participants to complete their HA will receive a $15 gift card

If you are identified as being high-risk in one of eight health areas (nutrition, weight management, stress management, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, back care, or tobacco use), you will qualify for telephonic health coaching – a great, FREE benefit of the program.  Additionally, the first 10,000 participants who complete the HA will receive a $15 gift card that can be redeemed at one of over 300 popular retailers.  The Health Assessment closes on December 31, so don’t delay in logging on to https://wellmass.staywell.com to complete yours and take advantage of the other benefits our website has to offer, including personalized health news, a prescription drug database, online Healthy Living centers, and wellness tools (including BMI and calorie burn rate calculators). 

The HA is open to GIC-insured active employees of the Executive and Legislative Branches and Constitutional Offices, as well as retirees between the ages of 55-64 and their spouses.  Since it is part of a state-mandated program, and it takes only 15 minutes to complete, employees are allowed to take it on their work computer, during work time, with a supervisor’s approval.  If you have any questions about the HA, or the WellMASS program in general, I would encourage you to learn more about this great, free benefit available to you by attending one of the Intro to WellMASS webinars on September 10.   You can also view a step-by-step demo of the Health Assessment here.   In the meantime, if you have any other questions, feel free to contact your agency’s Wellness Champion, or send me an email.  Here’s to another happy, healthy year of wellness!

Earning Points – and Rewards – with WellMASS

Two key incentives of participating in WellMASS are an increased awareness of your health status and the tools and resources necessary to help improve it.  Both of these incentives can be taken advantage of by participating in onsite programming like the Weight Loss Challenge and Lunch ‘n Learn seminars and, for employees who work in the executive and legislative branches or constitutional offices and receive their health insurance through the GIC, by logging on to the WellMASS site and accessing all of the wellness-related tools and information it has to offer.  Employees who utilize the WellMASS site have an added bonus of being able to earn points that may add up to a nice financial incentive.  Here’s how it works:

Employees receive points for taking advantage of certain parts of the website.  Any employee who earns 100 points by May 31 will be entered into a drawing to win one of 50 $250 gift cards, or a grand prize.  The initial deadline for the drawing was February 15, but it was recently extended due to demand.  You can earn points in the following ways:

Completing your Health Assessment – 50 points

Participating in last fall’s Step It Up! walking campaign – 25 points

Visiting an online health center – 25 points

Participating in an online healthy living program – 25 points

Enrolling in phone-based health coaching – 50 points

Enrolling in mail-based health coaching – 25 points

Committing to being a Wellness Champion for 1 year – 25 points

While the deadline for certain ways to earn points, like participating in Step It Up!, has passed, there is still plenty of time to take advantage of the WellMASS website and the tools and resources it has to offer.  May 31 is more than three months away; use those three months to get an idea of your health status and work on improving it by taking your health assessment and utilizing the convenient tools WellMASS offers to help you improve your health and wellness.

All About WellMASS!

Welcome!  I’m very happy to be making my first post on the Group Insurance Commission’s WellMASS pilot wellness program blog.  Please check back frequently for information on key dates and events, including the beginning and end of campaigns, challenges, and incentives;  frequently asked questions/concerns about the program; pictures and stories from agency challenges and events; success stories from participants;  and information on a variety of wellness topics.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the program, WellMASS  launched on March 1, 2012 with the goal of providing state employees and early retirees an opportunity to improve their health through several tools:  a Health Assessment; online resources; health coaching by phone, mail, or online; and Lunch ‘n Learn seminars and other on-site programming.  The Health Assessment and other online resources can be accessed at https://wellmass.staywell.com.

Since WellMASS launched, I have received several recurring questions from participants.  Below are some of these “Frequently Asked Questions,” and their answers:

Q.  Am I eligible for the WellMASS pilot wellness program?
A.  Currently,the online portion of the WellMASS Pilot Program is open to active state employees working in the Executive Branch, Constitutional Offices, and the Legislature, and early retirees between the ages of 55-64 and their spouses.  To be eligible, you must be enrolled in a GIC health plan.  Employees of authorities, municipalities, higher education, and the Judicial Trial Court system are not eligible for the program at this time.  Depending on the outcome of this pilot, and the availability of funding, we hope to extend the program next year.

Q.  If I am not currently eligible for the online portion of the program, can I still attend Lunch ‘n Learns?
A.  Yes!   All state employees are welcome and encouraged to attend the Lunch ‘n Learns and other onsite programming.  Lunch ‘n Learn Schedule.

Q.  I tried to register at wellmass.staywell.com and was told that my information was not recognized.  Why did this happen?
A.  There are several reasons why this may have occurred: 

1.  You are a contractor.  Contractors are currently not eligible for the online portion of WellMASS.
2.  You get your insurance as a dependent of someone else, who does not work for the state.  Employees must get their health insurance through the GIC in order to qualify.
3.  You are a state employee in one of the eligible agencies but you get your GIC coverage as a dependent of someone else.  You DO qualify if this is the case, but are not currently in the system.  In order to be able to access the website, you will need to email wellmass@state.ma.us with your name, agency, and home address.  We update the list of eligible employees on the second Tuesday of every month.
4.  You are a new employee.  If you just started, you will be added to the system the second Tuesday of the month after you are enrolled in your GIC health benefits.

Q.  I am concerned about entering personal information into the Health Assessment.  Is this information shared with the GIC, my health plan, or anyone else?
A.  NO!  The information you enter into your Health Assessment is confidential and will not be shared with anyone.  Neither the GIC nor your health plan will be able to see the information you entered or your HA results.  Your answers will not affect your premium or health insurance coverage. 

Q.  I do not have the biometric information requested on the last page of the Health Assessment.  What should I do?
A.  You have several options:  You can either save your HA and come back later, once you have obtained these results from your doctor’s office, or just enter your height and weight and hit “Submit.”  Height and weight are the only data needed to complete your HA; your results will not be as detailed without all of the requested biometric information, but you will still be able to submit your HA and receive personalized results.

If you have any other questions or concerns you would like answered in this blog, please email me at ashley.rasmussen@state.ma.us.  I also welcome and appreciate any other feedback about the blog or the WellMASS pilot wellness program.