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Workplace Wellness Implementation Research Project

Letters of intent were received by AHA on Sept. 4, 2012.
Invited Proposal Deadline - Extended Deadline: Monday, October 29, 2012
Award Activation Date: Jan. 1, 2013  

Background & Purpose

The American Heart Association is a non-profit, voluntary health organization funded by private contributions. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) mission is to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In supporting this mission, the organization has set a 2020 health impact goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. Heart diseases and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans, respectively.  A leading priority of the American Heart Association is to fund research that increases an understanding of the causes, treatments, and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The AHA is collaborating with a global private equity investment firm who launched a workplace wellness program in 2011 at six of its portfolio companies. The program currently benefits approximately 160,000 employees in the United States and aims to develop a best practice’ model for an employee wellness program that leads to healthier individuals, workplaces, and communities. The purpose of this initiative is:
  • To evaluate the baseline cardiovascular health profile of current employees enrolled in the workplace wellness program.
  • To improve the cardiovascular health of these participating employees.
  • To determine the impact of specific interventions of currently deployed employee wellness programs on employee’s cardiovascular health. 
  • To assess the improvement in employee cardiovascular health and cost-effectiveness after the introduction of an online wellness assessment tool (e.g., My Life Check).
  • To enhance the existing body of research and knowledge on the topic of workplace wellness, which will help employers make informed decisions.

Overview of Workplace Wellness Program & Data 

Launched in 2011, the firm’s wellness program is designed to provide a roadmap for driving collaboration and improvement in employee health and wellness across its US-based portfolio companies. The program is centered on the concept that individuals who know and understand their key health indicators can better manage their health and improve their overall wellness. Six of the firm’s U.S.-based private equity portfolio companies participate in the wellness program.  Together those companies employ more than 160,000 individuals. The program objectives are:

  • Improve individual employee awareness of their key health indicators through more widespread usage of biometric screenings and Health Risk Assessments (HRAs)
  • Provide effective wellness tools and resources to employees to improve the aggregate health and wellness by promoting positive long-term behavior change in employee populations.
  • Improve medical insurance cost trends wherever possible, increasing productivity, and reducing absenteeism
  • Communicate program success for individual companies and for the program overall to drive greater engagement
To participate in the program, companies must meet certain common criteria such as incentivizing employees for participation in biometric screenings, making screening data and results available to employees, and providing health coaching or outreach to employees with key risk factors. However, above and beyond these common criteria, companies generally choose to add additional tools, programs, and resources for the benefit of their employees. These tools and resources differ from company to company Across the participating companies, the data that is available for us to analyze includes, but is not limited to:

  • Biometric data is collected from participants, including but not limited to BMI, cholesterol, lipid profile, blood pressure and glucose
  • Self-reported Health Risk Assessment data is also collected from participants regarding their behaviors, attitudes, and health risks
  • Insurance claims data is also available to compliment the biometrics and health risk assessment data above
  • Other data may be requested
All data provided will be HIPPA compliant.

Objectives & Specific Aims

 To meet the purpose of the initiative stated above, funding will be given to conduct data analysis investigating the following objectives and specific aims: Objective 1 – Association of Health and Secondary Outcomes
Is better cardiovascular health associated with improvements in the following at baseline & longitudinally?
  • Absenteeism
  • Disability
  • Claims cost (employer and employee)
  • Self-reported health status & well being
Objective 2 – Effectiveness of Wellness Program Features on Participation 
  • What wellness program features encourage participation?
  • What are the characteristics of participants vs. non-participants?
Objective 3 – Effectiveness of Wellness Program Features on Health

  • Which features improve cardiovascular health? 
  •  Which features improve cardiovascular health at the least cost? 
  • What employee characteristics are associated with improvement?
Objective 4 – Effectiveness of Wellness Program Features on Secondary Outcomes
Which features improve:

  •  Absenteeism
  • Disability
  • Claims cost (employer and employee)
  • Self-reported health status & well being

Disciplines and Expertise

The principal investigator and research team should demonstrate experience in the following:
–        Analysis of complex data sets, including self-reported data and medical claims data
–        Program evaluation techniques, particularly for health plan or employee benefit data
–        Cost analysis Characteristics of the research team would preferably include expertise in statistical methodology, health behavior, corporate wellness, public/private partnership. .

 Key Requirements

Once awarded, there is an expectation that the awarded research team will interact on an ongoing basis with AHA and the firm to encourage sharing of knowledge and methods, and to provide exchange opportunities for further workplace wellness research and program development. Strategies and plans for communication and interaction between the research team and the organizations should be addressed in the proposal. Research team members will be expected to participate in quarterly or ad hoc conference calls and an annual face to face meeting to be held at a central location or in conjunction with an appropriate scientific conference. Quarterly reports will be required and achievement of milestones will result in further tranches of funding being released.

Target Audience

 At the time of proposal, the applicant must:
  • Hold a faculty/staff appointment of any rank (or equivalent) for at least 5 years, and must be conducting independent research. Not intended for individuals in research training or fellowship positions.
  • Hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent post-baccalaureate doctoral degree.
  • Meet institutional requirements for grant submission.


At time of proposal, must have one of the following designations:
  • U.S. citizen
  • Permanent resident
  • Pending permanent resident. Applicants must have applied for permanent residency and have filed form I-485 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and have received authorization to legally remain in the United States (having filed an application for Employment Form I-765).
  • E3 - specialty occupation worker
  • H-1B Visa - temporary worker in a specialty occupation
  • O-1 Visa - temporary worker with extraordinary abilities in the sciences
  • TN Visa - NAFTA professional
Awardee must meet American Heart Association citizenship criteria throughout the duration of the award.

Location of Research

American Heart Association research awards are limited to non-profit institutions, including universities and colleges, public and voluntary hospitals and other non-profit institutions that can demonstrate the ability to conduct the proposed research.

Proposals will not be accepted for work with funding to be administered through any federal institution or work to be performed by a federal employee, except for Veterans Administration employees.

Budget And Duration

The maximum award amount per grant will be $400,000 total (including direct and indirect costs), to be paid as milestones are completed and at $200,000 per year for up to two years of funding.

Allowable budget items are:
  • applicant’s salary and fringe benefits
  • salaries of essential technical personnel
  • supplies, equipment, publication costs, and other project-related expenses (excluding teleconference costs)
  • travel to meetings with sponsor at beginning, mid and end project
The American Heart Association encourages institutions to provide all required indirect cost support on behalf of their faculty and staff engaged in research funded by the AHA.   The American Heart Association will, however, provide for up to 10 percent of the total direct cost to help defray the indirect cost of the research. The maximum indirect cost of $36,364 will be included in the total award amount. Sample budget:
Year 1 Direct project costs (includes salaries/fringe, supplies, publications, travel, etc.) - $181,818 Indirect costs of 10% - 18,182 Total annual amount - $200,000
Year 2 Direct project costs (includes salaries/fringe, supplies, publications, travel, etc.) - $181,818 Indirect costs of 10% - 18,182 Total annual amount - $200,000

Proposal Submission Process


 Submission of a letter of intent is required. Letters of Intent are due to the AHA by Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Letters of intent will be reviewed for invitation to submit a full proposal. The components of the letter of intent and full proposal are described below. Components of the Letter of Intent
1)      2 page (maximum) description of:
a.      Experience of the principal investigator
b.      Qualifications of the research team
c.      History of collaboration as a team
d.      Plan to collaborate with AHA & the firm e.     

 Plan to disseminate findings
2)      List of relevant publications Submission of the Letter of Intent shall be via email to: Please submit the letter of intent and relevant publications in PDF format.

Components of the Full Proposal For those LOI submissions that are invited to submit a full proposal, the deadline for full proposal submission is Monday, October 22, 2012. 

Submission shall be via email to:
Please submit the required documents via PDF uploads within the email. Note that maximum file size accepted via email to AHA is 10 megabytes.
1)      Biosketch(es) for the Principal Investigator and members of the research team including a personal statement
2)      2 publications that provide evidence of complex data analysis experience relevant to this initiative
3)      Budget & Justification
4)      Proposal is limited to maximum of 12 pages, not including literature cited, and must address the following:
A.      Overview of the team in relation to project (max 2 pages)

–        Examples of past work
–        Describe team experience

B.      Approach

–        Establish baseline and longitudinal cardiovascular health profile for the portfolio companies including:
•         Methods to map current employee data to the Life’s Simple 7 metrics for cardiovascular health
•         Correlate baseline cardiovascular health to claims cost, absenteeism and disability
•         Quantify correlates of participation

–        Determine impact of program features on overall cardiovascular health score change, including
•         Wellness program features including interventions (Health Risk Assessment, coaching, screenings, My Life Check, etc.), incentives, and surcharges.)
•         Health plan benefits (copayments, Rx payments) related to smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, obesity. –        Determine impact of wellness program features on the following secondary metrics: •         Absenteeism
•         Disability
•         Claims cost
•         Self-reported health status & well being  

C.     Confidentiality & Data security plan (max ½ page)

D.     Collaboration & Dissemination Plan (max ½ page)
–        Describe how to disseminate abstract/papers (publications/conferences) and engage with key stakeholders

5) Signatory approval on this submission, from your institution’s sponsored projects office/grants office.

Note: for the awarded project, the AHA will require the execution of an award agreement and will make payments to the sponsoring institution.

Peer Review Procedure and Criteria

Proposals will be processed through the AHA National Center under the auspices of the AHA National Research Program.  Proposals will be reviewed and evaluated by the AHA and firm Joint Task Force. The following describes major factors considered in the review of the full proposals.  It assists an applicant in determining appropriateness of candidacy and is a guide to those who contribute to the proposal:


 Assessment of project's approach should account for 60 percent of the overall score. Are the conceptual framework, design, methods and analyses adequately developed, well integrated, well reasoned and appropriate to the aims of the project? Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative tactics?  

Research Team:  

Assessment of principal investigator should account for 30 percent of the overall score. Is the research team appropriately trained and well suited to carry out this work? Does the team bring complementary and integrated expertise to the project (if applicable)?


Assessment of scientific environment should account for 10 percent of the overall score. Does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Does the proposal demonstrate that resources will be available to complete the project? Do the proposed study benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, or subject populations, or employ useful collaborative arrangements?

Applicants should never contact reviewers regarding their proposals. Discussing scientific content of an or attempting to influence review outcome will constitute a conflict of interest in the review. Reviewers must notify the AHA if an applicant contacts them.  


Awards are not intended to supplement or duplicate currently funded work. Rather, it is expected that submitted proposals will describe projects that are clearly distinct from ongoing research activities in the applicant's laboratory or department Minor variations from existing research projects are not sufficient to constitute independent and distinct project.


Awarded Investigators and project team members will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the time the award is executed