Standing Apart

March 2, 2018 Kelli Littlechilds

A unique approach to health benefits

As the chief executive officer of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP), I often get asked what makes this organization unique. It’s a fair question, at a time when many companies claim to be leading the charge for one group/service/campaign or another. With more than 30 years with ASEBP, I can safely say that what we do here is not so much leading the charge but rather forging a new path, with a mandate made entirely unique by the individuals and industry we serve.

For a little bit of background, the ASEBP was established in 1968 as a not-for-profit health and welfare trust by both the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA). The plan was designed to provide comprehensive and customized health benefits to school jurisdiction employees across Alberta and to set up the sector for success in the long term.

While a great deal has changed over the years, the constant has been our focus on balancing the shifting wellness needs of covered members with the health of the plan. We’ve been fortunate that, over the years, our trustee group has consistently embraced this focus and has refined it to the point that our plan is now designed and delivered with an emphasis on wellness and resilience rather than simply providing benefits when members are unwell.

Setting The Stage

In order to ensure that we are set up to successfully execute our vision, we worked with the trustees to formally capture our commitment to health in the ASEBP Health and Benefits Charter. The charter serves as a cornerstone for how we make decisions related to plan design and health resource allocation, positioning us to navigate choppy waters while staying the course. We use it as an essential reference for decision making and as an important reminder of our commitment to the health and well-being of both covered members and the plan.

Fundamental in the charter is the notion that health is a shared responsibility amongst the ASEBP trustees, the ASBA, the ATA, participating employers, covered members and their dependants. If we’re all invested in achieving our collective wellness goals—from a systemic to an individual level and everything in between—the future health of the plan, sector and everyone impacted by them looks bright indeed.

In addition, a recent refresh of the ASEBP’s mission, vision and values statements saw health and wellness pushed even further to the forefront. Now, all of our vision statements include a reference to health—whether that be covered member and dependant health, the health of the plan or Alberta’s public education sector as a whole.

This important work has given ASEBP a leg up on our journey and, at the same time, reinforced a valuable lesson around health—we’re all in this together.

Collaboration Is Key

With foundational supports like the Charter and a well-articulated vision, shaping the Plan to focus on the many facets of health and wellness becomes simpler. From refining our benefit offerings so they offer comprehensive health support for covered members, to setting up the Plan for long-term sustainability, wellness is a critical component of our overall success.

One interesting way we’ve been able to stay ahead in the area of wellness is through our Health and Benefits Advisory Panel. Formed in 2014, the panel consists of a few select senior ASEBP employees, as well as key external partners with extensive expertise in our benefit plan, health and financial management. This knowledge trifecta has produced creative recommendations for plan management that take a broader view on our policies rather than simple cost containment—a focus of many other health benefit or insurance providers. Learning from the successes of this panel, we’re currently in the process of creating a similar group to look specifically at strategies and tools that can help us promote and protect the oral health of our members, while carefully managing dental plan costs now and into the future.

As we believe that health is a shared responsibility, and not something that any one person or organization can achieve on its own, we know that sharing and leveraging resources with other public education stakeholders helps our covered members attain optimal health. To this end, we’ve created a division dedicated to engaging with external groups, building strategic partnerships and collaborating with like-minded organizations from across the province and beyond—all with an eye to ensure covered members and the Plan have access to the resources they need to be well over the long term.

Healthy School Communities

Over the years, the nature of our health supports and how they’re delivered have transformed alongside the changing needs of the sector. Most recently, in response to our knowledge growth in the area of health promotion, we began to carefully adjust our model to ensure covered members and employer groups understood that their benefits were not exclusive to illness or specific diseases.

Our Health Promotion Services team, armed with tools and important connections to the broader comprehensive school health community, use evidence-based research to engage and collaborate with school jurisdictions and associations in support of workplace wellness. We expect this tailored, community-grounded support for our employer groups will help them discover solutions that meet their unique needs, level of readiness and capacity for change—and ultimately better serve the multi-dimensional wellness needs of their staff and ASEBP’s covered members.

To bolster this work, in 2015 we launched The Sandbox—a space for healthy school employee workplaces—with partners in Alberta’s Comprehensive School Health arena (Alberta Health Services, Alberta Healthy School Community Wellness Fund, APPLE Schools, Be Fit For Life Network and Ever Active Schools). The Sandbox is designed to help workplace wellness champions spark ideas, find resources and connect with like-minded individuals who share their passion for school employee health and wellness. We’ve been thrilled to watch the evolution of this site and we’re so happy to see it filling an important need within Alberta’s school communities.

A Healthy Future

With a health-focused structure and supports throughout the organization to realize our vision, I am confident that ASEBP is well positioned to continue helping covered members realize their wellness goals and for the Plan to remain fine-tuned and financially stable for years to come.

Kelli Littlechilds is the chief executive officer of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.


The Big Five—ASEBP’s Vision Statements

  1. To strengthen our capacity to address individual and organizational health and wellness across the Alberta public education sector.
  2. To position our health benefits and services as the leading-edge choice for Alberta’s public education sector and clearly distinct from traditional insurance and supplementary health-care providers.
  3. To implement innovative initiatives that support Alberta public education sector employers and employees as they work jointly toward individual and organizational health.
  4. To provide Alberta’s public education sector with a return on benefit plan investments in the form of improved employee health and wellness that contribute to healthy school communities.
  5. To ensure ASEBP benefit offerings align with and support the needs of covered members and their dependants at different junctures along their lifelong health journeys, including health promotion, disease prevention, early intervention and disability and disease management.

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