From both a professional and a personal perspective, the Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles has the potential to have a profound impact on lives.

On the professional side, I have represented The Alliance on the advisory council of the Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles (WIPHL) for several years. WIPHL promotes the use of behavioral screenings and interventions (BSI) in primary care and emergency room settings focused on alcohol, drugs, tobacco, depression and obesity.

The Alliance became engaged in this effort because of the proven benefits for employers: improved productivity, decreased absences, lower workplace injuries and reduced health care costs. We recognize the power of catalyzing the entire purchasing community to support this effort. WIPHL and The Alliance are hosting a meeting of large Wisconsin public and private purchasers in July 2013. Providers who have integrated BSI into care delivery will share their stories with purchasers to help us understand both the positive outcomes and the barriers to making it a sustainable service.

But there is so much more to say about the personal reasons to support this work. Wisconsin is always at the top of the list for binge drinking yet it’s proven that we must reduce binge drinking if we want to reduce drunk driving. Most drunk drivers are not alcoholics or repeat offenders; they are binge drinkers. BSI is especially effective in reducing binge drinking: in one study, clinics found BSI reduced car crashes among binge drinkers by 50% in the following year.

That brings me to my personal wish list for both the past and the future of this initiative.

  • I wish my friend’s son had been screened and treated before he binge drank and drove. He spent time in jail and tens of thousands of dollars on fines and medical bills before emerging to rebuild his career, his relationships and his financial security. How many of you have similar stories?
  • I wish a friend of mine had been screened and treated for depression before it reached the point of him taking his life and seriously impacting so many friends and family. They were left behind to pick up the pieces and recover from the devastation.
  • And I pray every day for another friend’s son who I cradled as a baby and who is now in rehab in Arizona after living on the streets with his heroin addiction and ultimately spending time in jail. Would an early screening and intervention have helped him down a better path?

The health care system could move toward repairing lives like these by instituting health educators as part of their medical teams. A health educator is a $60,000-a-year position that brings staggering return on investment to our communities, to our businesses and to our own friends and family.

All of us have been impacted by challenges with not only alcohol, depression and drugs but with the impacts of tobacco and obesity as well. WIPHL is doing what it can to bring BSI to the forefront with providers, purchasers and even policymakers here and in Washington. Let us know if you’d like to get involved.

Teri Van Tassel

Teri Van Tassel

Vice President, Marketing & Product Innovation at The Alliance
Teri Van Tassel joined The Alliance in 2006 and currently serves as vice president, marketing and product innovation. Her responsibilities include market research, member services, product development, product management, marketing communications and the public and media relations functions for the organization. Prior to joining The Alliance, Teri served as vice president/marketing for the Credit Union Executives Society.

In addition to her work at The Alliance, Teri serves on the leadership team for a Collaboration Development grant awarded to Mental Health America of Wisconsin, as an advisory council member for the Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles (WIPHL), a product development committee member for the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH), and is also a member of the American Marketing Association. Teri received her bachelor's degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

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