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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

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Health and well-being task force issues progress report

The University's Task Force on Health and Well-Being has issued a second report that presents additional findings and recommendations and identifies its agenda for the summer.

The task force, charged last fall by President Shirley M. Tilghman to examine University policies and programs that address the health care needs and promote the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff, presented an interim report in January.

This second report builds on the first document, which offered a set of guiding principles, background information and some initial findings and recommendations. Both are posted on the task force's Web site.

According to the new report, the task force will work this summer "to refine its proposals and look carefully at costs, priorities, potential sources of funding, and staff and space implications in preparation for a final report next fall." The task force encourages the University community to continue to provide feedback through the Web site by clicking on "Ideas and Suggestions" or by contacting its members.

The group is composed of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and is chaired by Janet Dickerson, vice president for campus life, and Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary of the University. It noted one common thread that has emerged through the work so far.

"One overarching recommendation that ... has pervaded all of our discussions involves the importance of better communication so all members of our community are aware of the programs and benefits that are available to them; so they know how to take full advantage of them; and so there can be greater interaction and synergy in addressing issues that cross office or departmental boundaries ...," the report states.

The 24-page progress report recaps recent activities, including focus group discussions with undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, administrative staff, biweekly staff and retirees. The discussions helped shape a survey of all these groups that will be conducted in the near future via the task force's Web site and administered by Princeton's Survey Research Center.

The task force also conducted a survey of Dillon Gymnasium users in February. In addition, it contracted with an outside company to conduct a comprehensive child care needs assessment. Other activities have included site visits and meetings with various people on campus and outside experts.

The task force noted the high degree of community interest in its work. "There is strong support not only for enhancing our clinical programs (especially with respect to mental health), but for improving our fitness, wellness, prevention and health education programs, expanding opportunities for healthy eating, improving the Student Health Plan and significantly expanding access to child care," the report states.

The report contains a number of recommendations, ranging from staffing and programmatic improvements to changes in the Student Health Plan. It also addresses facilities issues associated with the McCosh Health Center and Dillon Gymnasium as well as the integration of health, wellness and fitness services. Other topics addressed in the report include nutrition and issues of particular interest to faculty/staff and to postdoctoral researchers. On the subject of child care, the committee states in the report: "Our goal is to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations that could include the development of an additional University-affiliated center."

Looking ahead, the task force outlined its next steps for the summer and into the fall: "We recognize that in many areas we need to take a careful look at costs, at the relationship between costs and benefits, at priorities, at the urgency with which we would press each recommendation and at the metrics we would propose to measure success."

The task force also suggested the formation of a continuing group of faculty, staff and students that would focus on health and well-being issues after the final report is completed. The group would monitor the impact of implementing the report's recommendations and continue to serve as a repository for suggestions, questions and concerns.

Contact: Lauren Robinson-Brown (609) 258-3601

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