I Want to Launch a Health Promotion Program... Where Do I Start?

Launching a health promotion program may seem like a big undertaking, but these three simple steps will help you determine where to begin.

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Health promotion provides a great opportunity to do several things at once:

  • Generate new revenue with added programs
  • Address important health issues your members are struggling with, like weight loss
  • Reduce costs of attrition by promoting greater member retention

Step 1: Planning and Assessment

The first step to starting a health promotion program should be a self-assessment of your club and community. Ask yourself what your club can feasibly do given your size, location, staffing, and membership, and what your community—both members and non-members—needs.

Once you’ve determined what your community needs and what you can do to address it, identify your target audience and issue. Are you considering a program for pregnant mothers with a healthy eating and activity focus? Or will you offer a weight loss program to members and potential members who work in the area? This issue and target audience will then inform the design and implementation of your program.

As you plan your program, it is also important to consider whether the program will be open to non-members, whether it will be part of the membership fee or offered at additional cost, and who will be in charge of running and staffing the program.

More detailed information about planning and assessment, as well as a community assessment  worksheet and tips for assembling a wellness team, can be found in IHRSA’s Building Wellness Programs In Your Club e-book.

Step 2: Creating Your Program

Once you know what you are going to address and with whom, the next step is setting your goals and building a program that will get people engaged and excited.

Every health club is different, not only in terms of facility and staff size, location, equipment, and services offered, but also in terms of staff specialty and expertise, target population, and overall goals. Thus, no “one size fits all” program can be prescribed.

You can find ideas for programs in the toolkit linked above, or in IHRSA’s best practice e-books, including:

Step 3: As You Implement Your Program, Don’t Forget About Evaluation

Many people view evaluation as the last step in the implementation of a program—get the program going, then assess how it’s doing—but it should be one of the first considerations when designing a health promotion program.

Before you design your program, you want to consider the following:

  • What are the main objectives of your program?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What are the best ways to measure the program’s success based on the objectives and resources at hand?
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Alexandra Black Larcom @ihrsagetactive

Alexandra Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, is the Senior Manager of Health Promotion & Health Policy for IHRSA. She spends her days working on resources and projects that help IHRSA clubs offer effective health programs in their communities, and convincing lawmakers that policies promoting exercise are an excellent idea. Outside the office you'll most likely find Alex at the gym, running on the Charles River, or, in the fall, by a TV cheering on the Florida Gators.