Allegheny Health Network Launches “Mission Wellness,” Helping EMS Providers Promote Their Own Good Health

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Program funded by Highmark Foundation aims to transform EMS culture, using education, Fitbit connectivity, web management and health coaches

"Our goal is to transform the EMS culture, one step at a time." - Robert McCaughan, vice president, prehospital care services, Allegheny Health Network

As a city of Pittsburgh paramedic, Theraine Ransome worked to ensure the health and well-being of city residents. But the paramedic lifestyle – stressed and busy, grabbing food on the go – took its toll on her own good health. She weighed 275 pounds and was finding it increasingly challenging to do her job with a variety of body aches and injuries.

Ms. Ransome was far from alone. Obesity is an increasing problem among EMS providers, with one study finding 75 percent of new EMS recruits were either overweight or obese, and often struggling with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Thanks to a $97,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation, a new effort by Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Prehospital Care Services i s helping improve the health of EMS providers by focusing on mental well-being, nutrition, and fitness. Mission Wellness, AHN’s Prehospital Provider Health and Wellness Program, is working to change the EMS culture and promote a healthy lifestyle for EMS providers using Fitbit device connectivity, biometric screenings, education, web management and health coach accessibility.

Mission Wellness kicked off at the annual EMS Update Conference, March 31-April 2 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, Pa., and already has enrolled approximately 300 EMS providers. A second kickoff event April 7-9 enrolled EMS providers at the EMMCO West Northwestern PA Regional ES Council Symposium 2016 in Erie.

“Our goal is to transform the EMS culture, one step at a time. These men and women are dedicated and skilled professionals, too often overlooked as they work long hours at multiple, stressful jobs,” said Robert McCaughan, vice president, Prehospital Care Services, Allegheny Health Network. “Such a large-scale effort to improve the health of EMS providers has never before been attempted in this region, and we are grateful to the Highmark Foundation for making it possible.”

Ms. Ransome, who has lost 50 pounds by changing her diet and exercising, urges her fellow EMS providers to sign up. “I always took care of everybody but myself,” she said. “Paramedics need to take charge of their own health - getting fit means getting fit for life.”

A local sample of EMS providers in 2015 found that 44 percent are pre-hypertensive, 38 percent are pre-diabetic, 67 percent have moderate to high risk levels of HDL cholesterol and 45 percent have high or very high-risk triglyceride levels.

Working in conjunction with Integrated Corporate Health (ICH), EMS providers will complete an initial wellness profile including a lipid profile, blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI). Measurements will be re-taken six months into the program, and again at one year.

Participants will access diet, nutrition, stress management, and lifestyle education via ICH’s e-health platform and sign up for daily, weekly and monthly activity challenges monitored by a Fitbit device. EMS-oriented cookbooks will provide tips on quick meal preparation.

Designated Health and Wellness Champions will serve as the main points of contact for enrollees, helping them stay motivated and engaged. Weekly and monthly coaching, activity and educational sessions will also provide support. The program will also teach EMS providers healthy ways to manage stress.

“So many people owe their lives to the quick and expert service provided by Emergency Medical Services personnel. They are a vital and essential part of our health care system. The Highmark Foundation is proud to support EMS providers as they work toward a healthy future for themselves and their loved ones,” said Yvonne Cook, president, Highmark Foundation.

AHN’s program is open to as many as 350 EMS providers from the Emergency Medical Service Institute region and the Emergency Medical Management Cooperative, encompassing the western Pennsylvania counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren, Washington and Westmoreland.

More information on the program can be obtained by contacting Kate Jones at Kjones4(at) or visiting

About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.ORG), part of Highmark Health, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is comprised of eight hospitals, including its flagship academic medical center Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Forbes Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital and West Penn Hospital; an employed physician organization, a research institute, health + wellness pavilions, home and community-based health services and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,500 people, and has more than 2,100 physicians on its medical staff. The Network also serves as a clinical campus for Temple University School of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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

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Stephanie Waite