By: Brian J Schroeder, MHA, LSSBB
President, National Wellness Institute
Founder & CEO, Preventia Group LLC

As of September 2020, I begin my term as the new President of the National Wellness Institute (NWI).

As NWI moves into the new chapter–along with the rest of the world, I find it important to provide a bit of perspective on where wellness and well-being appears to have existed in the most immediate past, but more importantly, where we’re going.

I’ve been lucky to live at the intersection of wellness and healthcare for the majority of my career, and it’s certainly helped me examine the concept of what it means to “be well” through a more holistic and interesting lens. I’ve also had the opportunity to create, implement, analyze and improve wellness programs over time, and to use those experiences as a laboratory of sorts to test the success and/or failure of different initiatives.

The teams I was blessed to serve beside created amazing programs. Some produced significant outcomes, others did not. Some were fun and engaging with high participation, and others were totally irrelevant and quite boring. Through these different successes and failures, there was much to learn and improve upon. What made this experience unique, was that our organization was fully bought-in, from senior leadership down–all across the board. The support we had was amazing, and there was a sincere and dedicated commitment toward advancing the health and well-being of our employees, and ultimately our patients. Had I looked back 10 years prior to that, it would not have been the case.

Not that long ago, wellness initiatives were an afterthought. Individuals working in human resources, or perhaps administration (whatever that means), we’re handed “wellness” as something to have fun with, hoping it would make a difference. Organizations were not ready to actually invest the time and effort in these programs that would ultimately provide an opportunity to succeed. That is where we were not that long ago. But what about where we are today, and where we’re going?

Today, organizations (even prior to COVID-19) have begun to recognize that wellness is no longer an afterthought. It’s a long-term business strategy. The most important investment any organization makes, big or small, is in its human capital, its people. COVID-19 has certainly elevated the conversation further, and we have all seen the reality that having one or more chronic diseases increases our risk of complications due to COVID. That’s a fact. But let’s not focus on the pandemic. This too shall pass, and we will adapt.

Well before the pandemic, employers, health plans, and health systems have been stepping up their game and looking at wellness as a business strategy. How do we leverage the many tools and resources at our fingertips to improve our productivity, to decrease turnover, to become a “great place to work,” and most importantly, to ensure those we depend on most are happy, healthy, and thriving?

Those now responsible for wellness have seen a movement from program to profession. Yes, this is a profession. It’s not a task, it’s not something to check the box, and it shouldn’t be tasked out to anyone we perceive has the time to “do this wellness thing.” The world of wellness is evolving, and along with that are the multidimensional approaches we should all be paying attention to. At NWI, those dimensions have been defined as Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual, emotional, and Occupational. For those of us who have found a passion for this work, and have chosen “wellness” or “well-being” as a profession, we take it seriously. Our challenges are many, but to establish yourself as relevant, you must also understand the problem, be able to fully articulate the solution, understand the key stakeholders and environment which you exist, clearly define your value proposition as a professional, and advance your efforts for effectiveness, sustainability, and positive outcomes.

This is why I joined the National Wellness Institute, years ago. I had ideas. I wanted to make a difference, but I did not know exactly how or where to find my voice. NWI is the voice of the wellness community. We are here for you as you seek to establish yourself and pave your own roads, to ensure you have a voice, and to provide you with the tools and resources to give you and those you serve the best chance at success.

All professions have a certain level of expertise, and there are certainly resources for those that are looking to continuously learn how to move the ball forward. Again, as wellness was once an afterthought, it’s now a business strategy. We have evolved from program to profession. And as professionals, we must continue to learn, grow, and evolve. I am incredibly humbled and honored to serve this great community that I have come to love and appreciate, and as we move ahead and into the next three-to-five years, NWI will be working tirelessly to be the voice of the wellness community.