The health of the American people is in crisis. This is the first time in our history that our children are predicted to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Seventy-five percent of our youth are not fit to serve our country. Approximately one out of four children, adolescents and adults has a mental health problem, yet less than 25% receive any treatment. Americans average 21 hours a day leading a sedentary lifestyle, and the Centers for Disease Control predict that one out of three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. Further, nurses have higher obesity, hypertension and depression rates than physicians, and nine out of 10 Americans die from preventable diseases. Despite the fact that we spend trillions of dollars on healthcare, our country is 37th in world health outcomes.
I wish these startling figures were enough to urgently motivate every person in America to make just one healthy lifestyle change, but information alone unfortunately does not usually result in a change in behavior. Most individuals do not change their behavior until a crisis happens or their emotions are raised. Unfortunately, most people do not appreciate their health and change their lifestyle behaviors until it’s gone.
At Ohio State, we have committed to becoming the healthiest university in the world and have initiated many strategic tactics to see that vision come to fruition, including creating a culture and environment that makes it easy and fun for our faculty, staff and students to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors. We also are dedicated to teaching our students how to take great care of themselves and to live well in addition to providing the best evidence-based care to others.
In April 2013, we held the inaugural Building Healthy Academic Communities National Summit that brought some of the country’s best wellness experts together with more than 300 leaders from over 90 universities and colleges across the country to share best practices on how to improve population health in institutions of higher learning and their surrounding communities. We also recently launched the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities, which is determined to improve population health outcomes across the nation. And we continue to engage the local and global community in major initiatives to improve health and wellness outcomes for the most vulnerable populations.
Research has shown that just four behaviors—i.e., not smoking, eating five fruits and vegetables per day, engaging in 30 minutes of physical activity five days per week, and drinking only in moderation if you drink alcohol, which is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men—results in 66% less diabetes, 45% less heart disease, 43% less back pain, 74 % less stress and 93% less depression in addition to less absenteeism and higher presenteeism at work. Won’t you make just one of these healthy lifestyle behavior changes today for you and your family, who want to have you around for a very long time? If you are currently blessed with great health and wellness, appreciate it now, and don’t wait until it’s gone to make another behavior change that can result in you leading a long high quality healthy life.
Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FNAP, FAAN
Associate Vice President for Health Promotion
University Chief Wellness Officer
Dean, College of Nursing