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Updated 4:00 PM January 24, 2007




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  Michigan Healthy Community
Program becomes permanent, gains national recognition

As the Michigan Healthy Community (MHC) initiative draws national attention for its unique approach to address issues affecting health and well-being, President Mary Sue Coleman has announced that the program now will become a permanent part of the University.

Nearly three years ago Coleman presented her vision for a multiyear initiative that would recommend interventions and cost-effective investments to improve the health of the U-M community, while serving as a national model for how an organization can marshal its expertise and creativity to develop unique programs that address vexing health problems.

The early work of MHC—including programs to encourage exercise and healthier eating, promote workplace safety and prevent cost from getting in the way of effective disease management—has resulted in an invitation for U-M to join Leading by Example, a program of the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Prevention.

"I am proud that we have been asked to be the first university to become part of this program that will enable us to work with corporate and public-sector leaders who are at the forefront of workplace health and wellness, and to share our own successes," Coleman says. "Our place at this table is a true testament to the work of our faculty and staff in developing a successful prototype for promoting healthy living, containing health care expenditures and defining optimal insurance coverage for individuals and families."

Leading by Example is a program dedicated to building evidence of sound disease prevention and health-promotion policies and practices that can be adopted by other public and private-sector organizations. Formed in 2005, membership originally included 19 chief executive officers from major corporations, including Ann Arbor-based Pfizer; Dow Chemical; Xerox; Johnson and Johnson; and Procter & Gamble, among others. It also included the governors of three states, Arkansas, Ohio and Virginia.

During the first three years of MHC, a number of highly successful programs have been launched, some of which are unlike any adopted by the other organizations that are leading the way in workplace health and wellness, says Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs for the University and chief executive officer of the U-M Health System. One example of an innovative program is MHealthy: Focus on Diabetes, which aims to ensure that cost does not get in the way of people taking much-needed medications by providing co-pay relief to more than 2,000 faculty and staff with diabetes, Kelch says.

Other MHC programs include:

• Active U, in which nearly 9,000 faculty and staff members participated in a program to promote physical activity. Participants logged more than 12 million collective minutes of exercise in eight weeks while raising $36,000 in charitable donations. Registration for the second round of Active U 2007 Feb. 6-April 3, currently is under way

• The Enhanced Ergonomic Awareness Program that resulted in more than 50 applications from units seeking to address workplace safety or comfort issues;

• The Good Choice program that makes healthier food options available throughout Health System vending machines—by March will be expanded to include all campuses—and

• The comprehensive Healthwise Knowledgebase, an online resource for faculty and staff available on the MHealthy Web site.

"I join with President Coleman in expressing my gratitude for the work of many faculty and staff who embraced the vision for MHealthy and became involved with the effort, either through planning, by contributing to research efforts or through participation in one or more of the programs," Kelch says. "It has been rewarding to see that members of our community realize the importance of good health in their own lives and the lives of others, and are willing to contribute to our efforts to address this growing concern in our community and beyond."

As one of four presidential initiatives Coleman established for U-M in 2004, MHC originally was led by a task force that was charged with developing short- and long-term solutions for promoting a healthy community. The president announced today (Jan. 22) that MHC will become a regular program within the University to be administered through Human Resources and Affirmative Action, with oversight by the executive vice presidents of the University as well. As a result of the change, the task force now becomes the Michigan Healthy Community Advisory Committee and its membership will be expanded, says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer for the University.

Many of the task force members will continue to serve on the advisory committee, Winfield says, and representatives from throughout the three campuses and Health System will be added.

"We will seek members who will help us continue to draw on the intellectual resources of the University as we work to address the growing crisis in health care, " Winfield says. "The permanence of MHC will allow us to develop more innovative long-range solutions to improving health at the University and in the broader community."

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