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Wellness expert discusses Ohio State’s health efforts
October 12, 2016Tweet
Building a culture and environment “that makes healthy choices the easiest choices” is essential for schools such as Binghamton University, a wellness expert said at the Healthy Campus Summit.
“Wellness needs to be fun,” said Megan Amaya, director of health promotion and wellness at Ohio State University. “People sometimes feel that they are being forced to do (healthy) things. How can we make wellness fun and engaging so people want to be there?”
Amaya, who also serves as an assistant professor in practice at the College of Nursing at Ohio State, delivered the keynote address at the half-day summit on Oct. 5. The summit offered sessions on topics ranging from current health behaviors to research initiatives to a student-involvement fair.
Ohio State has a lofty – but necessary – vision when it comes to health and wellness, Amaya said: Become the healthiest university in the world.
“You must have that dream – that North Star – to be out front on a daily basis,” she said.
Being “out front” at a university with 65,000 students and 40,000 faculty and staff members means having a health and wellness strategic plan, a scorecard for measuring success and a council of campus leaders who meet monthly.
“Anyone who is interested in wellness sits on the council,” Amaya said. “We talk about the challenges, barriers and opportunities.”
Ohio State also works to include all members of the campus community in its health and wellness efforts. Its Buckeye Wellness Innovator is an informal, university-wide team consisting mostly of staff members who champion the wellness initiatives, such as healthy eating, active living and emotional well-being.
“These are people passionate about wellness,” said Amaya, who added that the 4-year-old program now includes 525 “innovators.” “They want to promote health and wellness in their units, departments and schools.”
The support of campus leaders is also key to incorporating health and wellness on campus, Amaya said.
“Leaders and managers need to be role models for wellness,” said Amaya, who praised Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger for including students in his early-morning jogs. “You need the collaborative, inter-professional, multi-sector interventions and policies to make your program the most successful it can be.”
Binghamton University has already taken a step toward a welcoming wellness environment by partnering with Binghamton Dining Services on the Healthy Campus Initiative. Binghamton is also one of the first 20 colleges in the country to make a three-year pledge to complete at least 23 guidelines developed by the Partnership for a Healthier America.
Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, introduced Amaya and formally declared October as “Exercise is Medicine on Campus Month.” Rose said he sees the importance of campus collaborations that cultivate a culture of support in the health and wellness field.
“We are making the transition from a well-regarded regional institution to an institution with a national profile,” he said. “So what is our identity going to be? Why can’t we be a place recognized for promoting health? I think there are some extraordinary opportunities around that identity.”
Making healthier living options available to the University community can help separate Binghamton from other schools – particularly for prospective students, Rose said.
Binghamton University’s competitors all have outstanding academics, he said, “but what if Binghamton can say and demonstrate that we are going to be better at helping you and supporting you to lead a healthy lifestyle?”
Rose noted that the University already has a health and wellness program in the Decker School of Nursing; Campus Recreation activities; a counseling center; and Sodexo projects and programs that promote healthy eating. The University also will be tobacco-free in August 2017.
“People who lead healthy lifestyles are more productive, more resilient and happier,” Rose said.