Website showcases robust array of Healthier Princeton programs
From the Jan. 12, 2009, Princeton Weekly Bulletin
Faculty, staff and students who made New Year's resolutions to improve their physical, mental or spiritual health can use a new website to learn about the many campus resources available through the University's Healthier Princeton program.
The Healthier Princeton website brings together information about new and ongoing programs, initiatives and events organized by various University offices. Healthier Princeton offers an integrated approach to health promotion and education, disease detection and prevention, and fitness and wellness services for the University community.
"Healthier Princeton is a continuing effort to develop new and better ways for members of the University community to improve their health and well-being," said Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee, co-chair of the Advisory Board to Healthier Princeton. "There are probably more resources available to faculty, staff and students than many people realize."
Programs featured on the website include: University Health Services health promotion and wellness services for physical and mental health; Campus Recreation fitness classes and exercise facilities; healthy and organic eating options offered by Dining Services; and work/life balance services available to University employees through the Office of Human Resources.
The collaborative efforts that go into improving health and well-being on campus recently were recognized by the American Heart Association, which designated the University as a "Fit-Friendly Company." The award honors employers who "go above and beyond when it comes to their employees' health" and "rewards companies for their progressive leadership and highlights their concern for their staff."
"At Princeton we are fortunate to have comprehensive health services that serve both students and employees with great depth and breadth," said Janet Finnie, interim executive director of University Health Services.
Healthier Princeton came out of the work of the Task Force on Health and Well-Being, which was appointed by President Tilghman in fall 2003 to look broadly at ways to improve the health and well-being of the campus community. The task force issued two interim reports in 2004 and a final report in November 2004.
The advisory board, which meets twice a year, was established in 2006 to continue the work of the task force by providing ongoing assistance and advice to the offices responsible for the Healthier Princeton program.
"The board is a collaboration that brings together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni and external professionals in the field to talk about health and lifestyle issues," said Vice President for Campus Life Janet Dickerson, co-chair of the advisory board. "In my view, the board contributes to a sense of joint ownership of these issues by stakeholders across campus."
Since its establishment, work of the advisory board has included: the creation of the Alcohol Coalition Committee to focus on issues related to high-risk drinking among undergraduates; implementation of new health services for faculty and staff, such as early prevention wellness screenings; and support for student well-being programs, such as the Princeton Depression Awareness Program to train faculty, staff and students to recognize early signs and symptoms of depression and emotional stress in University students.
Some of the Healthier Princeton initiatives for faculty, staff and students are highlighted below.
UHS employee programs
One way the University contributes to employee health is through University Health Services' (UHS) early prevention health screenings for faculty and staff. There are dozens of screening events each year, most of which are offered for free.
"We think about employee health as part of the ecology of this campus," said Gina Baral Abrams, director of health promotion and wellness services at UHS. "While many employers offer some health services for employees, Princeton is special in the number of early prevention screenings and wellness initiatives offered on site."
Screenings include those for high blood pressure, skin cancer, prostate cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes, as well as body composition and flexibility. Mammograms are available to employees off site through a partnership with the University Medical Center at Princeton. Screening dates and locations are listed on the Healthier Princeton online calendar and in the Healthier Princeton newsletter.
Employees who have benefited from the screening programs are compelling examples of how Healthier Princeton helps improve overall campus health, Finnie noted.
"At this year's FluFest and Cirque de Sante health and wellness celebration, 43 staff and faculty members were identified as at high risk for diabetes, 49 were identified as having high blood pressure and three were identified with an abnormal oral cancer screen," Finnie said. "If these individuals seek appropriate care, as they were advised to do by clinicians at the screenings, they may be able to prevent life-threatening health problems from developing."
Employees also can participate in proactive health programs, such as Weight Watchers at Work meetings and the smoking cessation program. Christine Riley, program manager for the Program in Near Eastern Studies, has not had a cigarette for more than a year thanks to the smoking cessation program. Riley said the free support group taught her effective techniques to quit smoking and helped her understand the emotional and behavioral reasons for why she smoked.
"I had the desire to quit, but the program gave me tools to keep my resolve going," Riley said. "Participating in a University-led group also was such a positive environment. Regardless of what time the meetings were, I had the support of my director and my colleagues to attend the sessions."
Campus Recreation walking programs
From fitness classes, cardiovascular equipment at Stephens Fitness Center, and the pool and squash courts at Dillon Gymnasium, Campus Recreation offers a wide range of physical activities to the campus community. Through the Healthier Princeton initiative, the office has increased its efforts to encourage more people to take advantage of exercise programs on campus.
"We're reaching out to faculty and staff members who may not have a comfort level with going to the gym to get them to engage in any kind of physical activity," said David Leach, associate director of athletics for Campus Recreation.
In collaboration with University Health Services, Campus Recreation has organized the Princeton Start! Walking initiative to motivate members of the Princeton community to be active every day. In April and October 2008, faculty, staff and students participated in a one-mile fun walk around campus. The event also included a vendor fair and wellness screenings on the lawn of the Frist Campus Center. Leach said the fun walk will be a semiannual event.
Kathy Wagner, who helped organize the Start! Walking initiative, said the goal is to facilitate healthy behavior and engagement in physical activity as part of the overall Princeton environment.
"We know that overweight and obese individuals are at an increased risk for many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers," said Wagner, health educator for health promotion and wellness services at UHS. "If we can help individuals reach and maintain a healthy weight we can lower their risk of developing serious health conditions."
Organized walking groups also are available for employees who want to engage in weekly exercise. The informal walking groups meet several times a week for short walks around the campus. Those interested in participating should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the walking group listserv.
"The walking programs allow you to not only get physically active, but to provide yourself with a mental break and take advantage of our beautiful campus," Leach said.
Café Vivian remodeling
Furthering Dining Services' commitment to offer healthy and sustainable food options, Café Vivian in Frist Campus Center re-opened this fall as the first "green" café on campus. The new Café Vivian encompasses and expands the Healthy Eating Lab, which came out of the Healthier Princeton initiative and formerly was located elsewhere in Frist.
"Café Vivian merged two important campus initiatives related to healthy eating and sustainability," said Director of Dining Services Stu Orefice.
All of the food products meet Dining Services' sustainable criteria of local, organic, humane or socially responsible. The menu includes local deli meats and cheeses, produce from New Jersey farms and the Forbes College organic garden, a grain bar featuring macro-vegetarian salads, pizza cooked in a hearth oven and a range of vegetarian and vegan options.
Recycled and environmentally friendly materials also were used in the café remodeling. The space features millwork and shelving produced from a particleboard made from sunflower seed shells, recycled glass in the tile surrounding the oven, lighting fixtures made from 100 percent recycled aluminum and energy-efficient lighting technology.
Dining Services incorporates the Healthier Princeton mission throughout its offerings, such as the elimination of all artificial transfats in baked goods and the use of grass-fed beef in 90 percent of campus dining venues.
For such efforts, Dining Services was awarded an "A" rating for its food and recycling efforts by the College Sustainability Report Card 2008. The citation noted that Dining Services works with more than 20 local producers to provide as much local, sustainably grown food as possible, and has set goals to increase the amount this year.
Healthy student communities
Kelly Kearney, a graduate student member of the advisory board, said she sees Healthier Princeton as a great way to establish communication about health issues between diverse groups around campus.
"The integrated approach of Healthier Princeton seems to make it very easy for various departments on campus to introduce small, health-conscious changes to their everyday services," Kearney said.
Students have greatly appreciated and benefited from such changes, said advisory board member Sanjeev Kulkarni, a professor of electrical engineering and master of Butler College. Kulkarni cited the improvements to campus fitness facilities, expansion of hours in fitness centers and enhancements to the student health plan.
One of the latest initiatives for students is a pilot project to promote student health, well-being and civic engagement by developing more robust residential college communities.
The Residential College Community Organizing Pilot Project is a collaboration between University Health Services, the Pace Center, and Butler and Wilson colleges. The project uses ideas from community organizing to create more cohesive units between residential college advisers and their advisees. Advisers received training on how to conduct individual meetings with advisees, with the goal of encouraging students to engage in healthy behavior and civic engagement.
The four-year pilot project was made possible in part by funding from the Pace Center and the Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary, as well as a $10,000 grant from the Bringing Theory to Practice Project, which was developed in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities to support campus-based initiatives that enhance the well-being of students. Abrams, who helped implement the residential college program, said organizers will evaluate whether it will be expanded to other residential colleges as the project progresses.
Junior Christine Prifti, an undergraduate student member of the advisory board and Butler College adviser, said organizing individual meetings has helped improve bonds with her 39 advisees. This has resulted in advisees being more likely to come to her with questions or concerns, she said.
"When a student comes to talk to me about a problem regarding a friend or roommate, it may also lead to a conversation about how the situation is affecting his or her own mental health," Prifti said.
The program also has led to more advisees participating in group activities she organizes, she said, such as "make your own trail mix" or healthy foods study breaks.
"It helps me act as a better resource to my advisees and take steps to ensure the health and well-being of these students," Prifti said.