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Updated 5:15 PM November 6, 2008




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MHealthy sets course for five years

More than 10,000 faculty and staff members have participated in Active U, MHealthy's flagship physical activity challenge begun in 2005. Since that time, a range of other programs has been offered to promote mental health, improve nutritional habits, encourage physical activity and improve workplace ergonomics for safety and injury reduction.

Beginning in 2009, a five-year MHealthy plan will guide additional efforts and chart the implementation of new programs aimed at improving the health of the University community.

"Our community's readiness to embrace programs that help them stay in good health continues to be demonstrated across the University, and leadership commitment to health was made very clear with the endorsement of the MHealthy five-year plan," says Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for Human Resources.

"We've completed campus surveys and monitored the participation rates and the effectiveness of MHealthy programs since they began and have found these programs welcomed with enthusiasm. Now we'll take an even more disciplined approach to developing the programs that matter most to our faculty and staff, and will work to make the greatest difference in improving health and well-being. It will encourage us to live fuller lives and at the same time help the University manage health care costs. It's simply the right thing to do."

Thomas says that MHealthy will concentrate on prevention and healthier living programs, emphasizing leadership commitment, a supportive climate, communications and the evaluation of data to ensure that programs are meeting expectations.

"The support of the faculty and staff community is what's making this effort successful," says LaVaughn Palma-Davis, senior director of University Health and Wellbeing Services. "Programs and participation are growing, and the University is gearing up to meet the needs."

The MHealthy Web site has been redesigned for a more inviting appearance and easier navigation because it is the main entrance for information, health resources and registration for MHealthy programs, Palma-Davis says.

"People care deeply about this topic, and we want to take a comprehensive approach so that we not only promote good health for the individual, but also consider the work environment and policies that support a culture of health," she says.

Administrators say they increasingly will integrate health and well-being efforts with benefit programs over the next five years, with a focus on prevention and the reduction of personal health risks.

"We'll continue to provide extraordinary quality of care for those who are ill, but we can't let that be the end of our efforts," says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer and director of the University Health Service. "We also must help prevent future illness and disease by working to keep low-risk individuals healthy, and providing those who have higher risks with the information and support that they need to reduce their chances of chronic illness or complex conditions down the road." Winfield emphasizes that knowing and understanding your numbers — cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose — and taking an inventory of health history and lifestyle behaviors can provide a road map for a healthier life.

"We plan to help faculty and staff start the New Year right by offering free and confidential MHealthy Wellness Assessments Universitywide to provide that important health risk information," Winfield says.

Details on voluntary MHealthy Wellness Assessments will be available in December. The program will provide each participant the information and professional advice needed to discover hidden risks and develop a personal plan for a healthier life, Palma-Davis says.

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