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Starport is designed to promote the welfare and morale of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) workforce.  Starport Services is a quality-of-life program that directly supports the mission of the Johnson Space Center by providing a variety of support activities and employee services. These activities and services seek to enhance work-life balance, promote mental and physical fitness, and provide a working environment at JSC that helps to attract and retain quality employees.

When tasked to find new “dynamic wellness” technology to enhance their fitness and wellness program, Starport brought in an InBody 770 to replace their existing body composition tools: calipers and handheld BIA devices. In 2015, Starport’s membership grew by 48.6% and increased its workplace wellness program adoption rate to 38% of eligible employees and contractors.

The Search for the Best

While NASA’s astronauts, scientists, and researchers are committed to an unending mission to explore the universe and expand mankind’s understanding of the unknown, Starport – the workforce wellness program at the NASA Johnson Space Center – has a more immediate, earth-bound mission: to attract, retain, and support the health and wellness of the JSC’s 11,000-strong workforce of government employees and contractors.

How does Starport do that? The same way any NASA-affiliated group does: by providing its employees with the best tools for the job. Which is why, in late 2014, Employee Wellness and Fitness Services Manager Evan Thoman brought in the InBody 770.

“We want to offer our community the very top, the top echelon if you will, in terms of equipment and/or access to tools or resources to allow them to improve their health and wellbeing, and that doesn’t mean just another treadmill. It means something much more than that,” said Thoman.

Previously, Thoman had been using calipers and handheld bioelectrical impedance devices to determine body composition with limited and mixed results. When the call came from above to deliver a wellness program that would achieve Starport’s mission, Thoman remembered InBody from his previous role in the private healthcare sector. He knew that anything less than the InBody would be unacceptable for the NASA workforce: “We’re NASA, so we want to do everything we can to offer our workforce the best of the best, and at the time the InBody was – and still is – the best of the best.”

Building Trust with Education

Thoman knew that the JSC workforce – an incredibly tech-savvy and data-driven population – would not just accept a new piece of technology as the “best of the best” at face-value. NASA’s workforce is used to working with the most sophisticated technology available, so when outside technology comes in, it’s often greeted with a high degree of skepticism. However, Thoman was cautiously optimistic. “I knew people would use it,” he said. “I just hoped our employees would put their trust in this.”

The key to building that trust would be education. “This population, they want to be the best at everything and know everything there is to know about a certain topic, and body composition assessments and InBody assessments are not different.”

Thoman launched a mass-awareness campaign designed to teach the workforce what the InBody 770 could do for their health and wellness. It started with teaching the importance of knowing important body composition values. Thoman had previously held “Know Your Numbers” campaigns for employees to promote awareness of metrics like blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He used this same model again, except this time on the topic of body composition, promoting awareness of values such as lean muscle mass and body fat percentage.

“No Signs of Losing Momentum”

Once the InBody arrived in December 2014, Thoman devised a plan to implement the InBody 770 into the workplace wellness program.  Taking advantage of the annual New Year resolution membership signup wave, Thoman put the InBody 770 front-and-center. “The InBody 770 was the focal point,” he said, “and it continues to be the focal point.”

Not content to let the InBody sit in the Starport gym and wait for people to discover it, Thoman took the device outside at every available opportunity.  When there was a health fair at NASA JSC, the InBody 770 was there. When there was an event at a local NASA-affiliated contractor’s office, Thoman took the InBody on the road and tested people there. He even brought the InBody into the cafeteria and tested people during their lunch break.

Thoman’s efforts paid off. Starport gym members began to share their results with others who were not yet members, creating more interest and excitement among the JSC workforce. “People who had never, ever planned on having an assessment done…all of the sudden saw this results page that their co-workers were passing around and saw all of the data that it presented and then suddenly became very interested and wanted to start tracking and trending their own metrics,” he said.

“Once the information got out, once they put their trust in the machine, once it was verified…it’s just taken off, and it shows absolutely no signs of losing momentum.”

Starport’s Numbers Take Flight

At the close of 2015, Starport posted the highest membership numbers it has ever achieved, expanding from 2,800 memberships in January to 4,280 in December: an increase of 48.6% by year’s end.  In terms of the entire NASA JSC workforce, this figure accounted for 38% of the 11,000 NASA employees and contractors eligible for Starport membership.

Thoman credits the InBody as a key factor driving this high engagement.  Once the workforce learned about how their body composition factored into their health and wellness and understood how the InBody could help them reach their health goals, employees came again and again to track their numbers.

“It has brought so much awareness in terms of the physical health of our workforce, much more than I ever thought,” said Thoman. “People are pretty set in their ways, and this was asking them to change their routine of just stepping on the scale to measure progress.”

With 2016 well underway, Starport’s membership signups are set to again break records. Thoman has set a year-end goal of 50% of the NASA JSC workforce to be signed up for the wellness program by December.  Although it’s a lofty goal, he’s confident he’ll get there with help from his InBody 770 and the trust his workforce has placed in it.

“The machine has proven itself,” said Thoman. “It’s passed the ‘NASA test’ from a trust standpoint.”

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