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The difference you can make when you're all for health.

Mission accomplished: wellness program helps those who help others

Chris is an emergency medical technician (EMT). He's always loved taking care of people.

"When my friends were hurt, I'd fix them up," said Chris. "Same with my sisters. It was something I always liked to do."

But until recently, he seldom made time to take care of himself. And his doctor warned him that his poor eating habits and lack of exercise put him at risk of developing diabetes.

Then he enrolled in the Mission Wellness program, which promotes healthy lifestyles through fitness, nutrition, and mental health.

This program was designed specifically for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers like Chris. And it helped him take control of his health.

Chris learned that he needed to change his diet. And he was motivated to incorporate exercise into his everyday routine. Now he works out at the company gym before each shift. And he rides his bike to and from work all year long. Because of these lifestyle changes, he lost 50 pounds. It transformed his life.

"Mission Wellness came along at the right time, just when I needed it," Chris said.

Chris is #LivingProof that saving lives begins with living well.

Making their own health a priority

Mission Wellness is sponsored by the Allegheny Health Network's (AHN) Prehospital Services Division and is supported through grants from Highmark Inc. and the Highmark Foundation.

Available in 26 counties in western Pennsylvania, participants learn how to manage their mental well-being, fitness, and nutrition. Because statistics show EMS providers are at higher risk for several life-threatening health conditions.

"Compared to the general population, EMS providers experience higher-than-average rates of obesity, heart disease, and suicide," said Kate Lambert, Prehospital Care Coordinator at AHN.

"It's the physical nature of the job, but also the mental stress that comes with those high-impact situations," said Lambert.

EMS providers give so much of their time and energy to other people's health. That's why AHN, Highmark Inc., and the Highmark Foundation have stepped in to help them focus on their own health and well-being.

Encouraging lifestyle changes

The goals of Mission Wellness are to help EMS providers:

  • Decrease their blood pressure
  • Decrease their cholesterol levels
  • Manage their blood sugar

To enroll, EMS providers complete a health risk assessment that asks about nutritional habits, physical activity levels, smoking/tobacco use, and sleep habits.

They also complete free health screenings at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the year-long program to measure their progress.

And Mission Wellness works with Integrated Health 21, a specialized health management company, to conduct health risk assessments and biometric screenings as part of the program.

Tools for education and motivation

Participants have access to wellness tools to help them manage their health, including:

  • An eHealth platform
  • Health coaching
  • Wellness challenges
  • Online education
  • Classroom education that counts toward continuing medical education credits

Each participant also receives a Fitbit exercise tracker. And they compete against and cheer for each other in community Fitbit groups. Top performers are recognized and can win prizes.

"It's been a huge motivator," said Chris. "If I would have done it on my own, I don't think I would have stayed on top of it."

Life-changing results for EMTs

Mission Wellness has already affected the lives of over 350 participants who are now equipped with strategies for leading a healthy life. Highmark is expecting even greater participation in years to come.

"We have heard many great success stories," said Lambert. "We know from 80 people that participated in health screenings in November that nearly 400 pounds have been lost collectively, and blood pressure and cholesterol measurements have improved."

Encouraging healthy habits for families

The families of EMS providers have benefitted, too. Chris has enjoyed encouraging his family to be healthier. He set a positive example by riding his bike 49 miles to his daughter's cheerleading competition. Now his daughter and wife love to bike with him, too.

Chris' family will also be able to support him as he continues through the Mission Wellness program. For the program's second year, Mission Wellness is inviting participants' friends and loved ones to attend all of the educational sessions. And the health initiative plans to add new focus areas to the program including financial well-being and work-life balance.

Additional information

About the Highmark Foundation

The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit

About Allegheny Health Network's PreHospital Services Division

The Allegheny Health Network recognizes EMS as an important part of their health care delivery team. Prehospital services at Allegheny Health Network comprises medical direction, education, quality assurance, emergency medical services, and communication centers. For more information, visit

About Integrated Health 21

Integrated Health 21 is a health management services company that since 2009 has partnered with employees, employers, health benefits specialists, and insurance plans to maintain or improve employee health, well-being, and productivity and reduce health care costs. Integrated Health 21 serves a full range of employers, many with multiple locations across the United States, and has performed health screenings and flu vaccinations for thousands of employees at hundreds of businesses, health care facilities, and non-profit and governmental organizations. For more information, visit

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