In January of 2008, the University of Maryland Campus Wellness Coalition formed to address the health and wellness of the College Park campus community. Student wellness affects academic success, but it seems that often wellness is seen as an individual concern, rather than a campus priority. The Wellness Coalition aimed to make health a priority for all, and through interactions with students, faculty, and staff on various levels we determined the main issues of concern – eating healthy, exercising, and stress management. The first year, 2008, was a planning year for the coalition. In February of 2009, the initiative kicked off with the Terps Wellness Expo, attracting over 1,000 students, a wellness website was launched, a comprehensive calendar of events was distributed, and Testudo’s Market (a farmer’s market) was implemented.
When we formed the Wellness Coalition in January of 2008, we spoke with students and reviewed health data to identify priority areas to address. We reviewed National College Health Assessment data specific to our campus, conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, and held planning meetings with coalition members. As health priorities were identified for students, we were able to have discussions with faculty/staff to select overlapping priority areas. From this, the initial three priority areas were developed: physical activity, stress management, and nutrition. Resources were allocated from several departments to assist in the launch of the campus wellness initiative, including the reallocation of time of two full-time staff persons to dedicate towards the initiative. As we have grown, we have conducted a formal Faculty and Staff Wellness Assessment that has provided us information on the health behaviors of campus employees.
The mission of the Campus Wellness Initiative is to establish a campus environment that supports the development and maintenance of a healthy mind, body, and spirit for all members of the university community. Our goals for the last year were to develop a website to serve as a clearinghouse for all wellness programs and services on campus, develop a Facebook page for the initiative, and to plan and implement programs surrounding our three health priority areas including a Farmer’s Market and a Wellness Expo. In the development of the expo and farmer’s market, we were able to gain interest from student groups and other faculty and staff to assist with the planning. We were also successful in forming partnerships around campus for each of these events in order to increase the participation and visibility. We have also completed a three year strategic plan to help fulfill the mission of the initiative.
Working with our web designer, we developed a mockup of a website for the Wellness Initiative, and presented it to coalition members for feedback and further development. Once we developed the website, it provided a place to publicize events and services the Wellness Initiative was offering, such as the Wellness Expo and the Farmer’s Market.
To get the best attendance possible for our Wellness Expo, we partnered with a department that hosts an annual event at the beginning of spring semester. We hosted the Wellness Expo at this event, and were able to reach over 1,000 people. At this event we were successful in creating buzz about wellness by performing a spontaneous dance in our student food court during lunch hour, followed by an official message from the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of the School of Public Health.
We also implemented a Farmer’s Market on campus with the assistance of a student group working on a business class assignment and a programming subgroup. The Farmer’s Market encouraged students to eat fresh, healthy foods, and also work together to figure out the logistics of hosting the Farmer’s Market.
We have several different methods to evaluate the success of our efforts. The website was evaluated by the coalition and will also undergo student evaluation. Analytics will be set up for the website to track visitors. To evaluate the Wellness Expo, we tracked the number of participants, and also administered a survey to determine participant satisfaction. The results from the survey indicated that participants were satisfied with the event and wanted to see more opportunities on campus to assess one’s wellness. We tracked the participation in the Farmer’s Market, and we have also noted numerous articles indicating the desire to have a regular, stable farmer’s market on campus, as well as phone calls and emails from community members interested in the market.
The Campus Wellness Initiative as a whole has institutional buy-in and support from multiple arenas across the campus. Specific pieces such as the website will continue to be developed by the coalition co-chairs and the content management system set up for the project; the Wellness Expo will be offered annually and we will continue to work with our planning team to make each Expo relevant and useful to the participants. The Farmer’s Market project is currently being developed into a more sustainable market; we have been working with the University legal team and Procurement Office to contract a company to help run the market. This will assist us in bringing a weekly market to campus all year. Having a Market Manager will free up some of our resources and allow us to focus on the educational aspect of teaching participants how to use what they buy at the market.
Since the inception of the Campus Wellness Initiative, the coalition has grown from a 30 member task force to 60 members plus a student driven committee. Health and wellness are becoming a higher priority among the students, faculty, and staff. At the February Wellness Expo, we had over 1,000 students; at the same event the previous year, only 150 people had attended. Testudo’s Market also drew in several hundred community members and has since garnered multiple articles in the Diamondback (campus newspaper) and several letters/calls of interest to have a fully operational market on this campus. Recently, we administered a Faculty and Staff Wellness Assessment to a random sample of 2500 employees; our response rate of: 30% (n=717) indicates that faculty and staff are interested in health and wellness programs on campus. The campus wellness initiative has been instrumental in fostering an institutional value of wellness.
University of Maryland Wellness Website: www.wellness.umd.edu