Improving health and well-being, controlling medical costs and enhancing productivity through health promotion.
Dr. Michael O'Donnell
Dr. Michael P. O'Donnell

Michael P. O'Donnell,

Consultant and speaker

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Michael P. O'Donnell, PhD, MBA, MPH

Workplace Health Promotion

Dr. O'Donnell has developed and or managed workplace health promotion programs for more than 50 medium, large and very large employers over the span of three decades. This has included 10 years as the internal director of programs provided to directly to more than 50,000 employees and 25 years as a consultant/vender to other employers. Sectors served have included health care, manufacturing, publishing, telecommunications, and technology. His work has included developing strategic and operational plans, refining and implementing corporate policy, developing incentive systems, writing program materials, writing successful grant applications, creating communication campaigns, hiring and training staff, presenting lectures, auditing and refocusing programs, and creating and implementing evaluation efforts.

Clinical Health Promotion

Dr. O'Donnell has 10 years experience managing health promotion programs in clinical settings. This has included direct responsibility for occupational health, employee assistance, fitness centers, and employee and commercial health promotion programs. He has been responsible for developing and managing comprehensive health promotion programs, integrating health promotion protocols into occupational medicine screenings, developing a wellness section of an electronic medical record, developing intensive clinical health promotion programs, training medical staff to refer qualified patients into intensive health promotion programs, creating grand rounds series, integrating health promotion concepts in medical school curriculum, and helping to develop a study to test the health and financial impact of health promotion programs offered to Medicare recipients.

Community Health Promotion

Dr. O'Donnell has several years experience leading community heath promotion programs. His work has included developing campaigns to engage thousands of employers in establishing smokefree workplace policies, tripling the call volume to the state Tobacco Quitline, mobilizing more than 10,000 people to advocate for a state ban on smoking in public places, and creating a framework for a decade long plan to cut county level smoking rates in half.

Public speaking

Dr. O'Donnell has presented more than 280 keynote, breakout, and workshop presentations on six continents to groups ranging in size from 6 to 4,000. Audiences have included business leaders, health promotion professionals, scientists, corporate boards, senior level government officials, local community members and cruise ship passengers. The most popular topics have been the health and financial impact of health promotion, integrating active living strategies into everyday life, strategic design of workplace health promotion programs, and integrating health promotion into national health policy. For scientific groups, he has also spoken on research methods, program evaluation, principles of health behavior change, design of tobacco cessation programs, and scholarly publishing. He has served as the master of ceremonies for more than 25 national conferences.

Theoretical foundations

Dr. O'Donnell's approach to developing and managing health promotion programs is based on integrating scientific findings with the dynamic realities of workplace and community environments. Critical scientific learning experiences have included conducting a benchmarking study involving the 80 best workplace health promotion programs in the nation, collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a systematic review of the published literature on the health impact of workplace health promotion programs, supporting a systematic review of the published literature on the financial impact of workplace health promotion programs, serving as a judge on the selection panel of the C. Everett Koop Award for 15 years, preparing a doctoral dissertation on the predictors of health behavior, and writing in-depth reviews of more than 1800 studies on the health and financial impact of health promotion. His approach to workplace health promotion has formed the basis of three pieces of legislation introduced in the United States Congress. He is currently a Clinical Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, and has served as an adjunct professor in the the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. He also served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Catholic University and the Graduate School of Health Sciences at Yonsei University for one year.

Business ownership, management, and board membership

Dr. O'Donnell is founder, president and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Health Promotion, Inc. Launched in 1986, the American Journal of Health Promotion was the first scientific journal to address the health promotion field. In 1989, he launched the annual Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference, which attracts more than 600 people. He is currently the Director of the Health Management Research Center at the University of Michigan. The Center has helped more than 1000 worksites measure the health risks of their employees; calculate the link between health risks, medical costs and productivity; evaluate the impact of their health promotion programs; and in the process, establish the scientific foundation for this area of research. He has served on boards of directors, advisory boards and committees for 48 non-profit and for profit organizations. He is founder and continues to serve as member of the Board of Directors of Health Promotion Advocates, a non-profit organization created to make health promotion an integral part of national health policy. Health Promotion Advocates has introduced two pieces of legislation that have been included in health care reform legislation.


Dr. O'Donnell earned a PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, an MBA in General Management and an MPH in Hospital Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his undergraduate work in Psychobiology at Oberlin College, and received a high school diploma from Seoul Foreign School, in Seoul Korea.


Dr. O'Donnell's publications include more than 200 articles, book chapters and columns, books and workbooks. His first book, Health Promotion in the Workplace (John Wiley and Sons, 1984) was the first reference/textbook on workplace health promotion, and was nominated for Books of the Year Award by the American Journal of Nursing in 1985. The second edition (Delmar, 1994) was translated into Korean. The third edition (Delmar, 2002) was translated into Chinese. The fourth edition was released in English in October of 2014, and in Portuguese in July of 2015.


Dr. O'Donnell's 13 national awards include the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award from the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation (2011), Bill Whitmer Leadership Award from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) (2011), Lifetime Achievement Award for Advancing Health and Wellbeing in the United States from WELCOA (2010), the HealthMedia Fusion Health Promotion Advocacy Award (2009), Active Living Person of the Year, Active Living By Design Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2003), Alumnus of the Year from Seoul Foreign School (1999), Distinguished Leadership and Service Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Worksite Health Promotion (1997), Young Professional Award from the Society for Public Health Education, Great Lakes Chapter (1990), selection as a Fellow by the Association for Fitness in Business (1985), and the Bausch Lomb Award in Science from the University of Rochester (1970).


Michael is an avid swimmer and hiker, and has been a vegetarian for more than 40 years. He strives to achieve the model of optimal health espoused by the American Journal of Health Promotion: a dynamic balance of physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual health.

Dr. Michael O'Donnell