Groundbreaking national consortium issues call to action to improve population health and wellness of academic communities

The National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities has challenged colleges and universities across the United States to take action to make a difference in the health and wellness of their campuses.

During the National Summit for Building Healthy Academic Communities, held April 23-24 at the University of California, Irvine, leaders from more than 90 universities and institutions heard from internationally renowned experts on evidence-based developments in health and wellness. Topics included the science of happiness, physical activity, evidence-based approaches to improving population health in academic settings, public policy regarding food and eating choices, and ending illness.

“We are confident the high-caliber speakers at the summit, combined with the high-energy wellness and fitness activities, left everyone energized and ready to take action at their own institutions,” said Bernadette Melnyk , PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, president of the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities, associate vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer, dean and professor of the College of Nursing, and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry in the College of Medicine, The Ohio State University.

“We know how vital it is to enhance health and wellness in the workplace — it leads to reduced health care costs, insurance premiums, and most importantly, healthier and more engaged employees. However, very few academic institutions have implemented a comprehensive, integrated approach to health and wellness that addresses the entire academic population. We in academia have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of our students, faculty and staff, and surrounding communities.”

In addition to Melnyk, speakers at the summit included one of the world’s leading cancer doctors and New York Times bestselling author Dr. David B. Agus; nationally renowned researcher on childhood exercise, obesity and diabetes and professor and chair of Pediatrics at UC Irvine Dr. Dan M. Cooper; president and CEO of REACH (Resource for Advancing Children’s Health) Dr. Peter Jensen; author, happiness researcher and professor of psychology at UC Riverside Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky; and consumer advocate, nutritionist and award-winning author and academic Dr. Marion Nestle.

Earlier this year, universities across the country were invited to participate in the inaugural BHAC National Wellness Challenge to promote health and wellness and to gather fun, creative and effective wellness programs to highlight and share. Winners were announced at the summit:

Videos produced as part of the challenge will be posted at healthyacademics.org.

Before the summit, the new BHAC National Consortium held its first board meeting. The board confirmed its mission: “To equip academic institutions with evidence-based strategies and resources to improve population health and well-being of faculty, staff, students, alumni and the communities they serve.”

Melnyk also encouraged colleges and universities to become institutional members in BHAC to play a key role in improving the lives of the more than 33 million faculty, staff and students across the country.  Visit healthyacademics.org/contact-us for information on becoming a member.

“Academia is fertile ground to enhance health and wellness,” Melnyk said. “Please join us in this vital effort to help our communities become healthier and more engaged.”