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University Health System seeks to integrate wellness programs

By Claire Bryan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 11, 2014

After launching its new program in the fall, Wolverine Wellness, the University Health Service is striving to streamline its offerings to better serve students.

Previously known as the Health Promotion and Community Relations at UHS,
Wolverine Wellness is still under development, but is beginning to form a vision for the future of health offerings at the University.

A draft of the first common agenda was decided upon over the summer. In October, Wolverine Wellness discussed the agenda with students in student focus groups and edited the draft.

The current draft states that “through collective and innovative programs, services and facilities, students will grow in their capacity to integrate health and wellness as part of success, build resilience to manage the fluctuations of life, make thoughtful choices that reduce harm and find meaning and purpose.”

Wolverine Wellness Director Mary Jo Desprez said administrators in 2010 were originally focused on integrating many departments to better serve student health and wellness.

Currently, different UHS units focus on different parts of the student body — Counseling and Psychological Services looks at mental health issues while Recreational Sports looks at physical fitness issues — and Wolverine Wellness hopes to combine efforts for each student in the future.

“We are looking at how we can do better by making sure our services look at a student as a whole person,” Desprez said.

Along with infrastructure redesign, UHS could also benefit from physical renovations, said Dr. Robert A. Winfield, the University’s chief health officer, said.

Though there is no formal proposal to create a new UHS facility, Winfield has begun to think that when the time comes, possibly within the next decade, the same idea of combining the University’s wellness groups would apply.

“If given the option many years forward I would like to see a larger facility that could co-locate the UHS, CAPS, Wolverine Wellness, SAPAC and other health related services” Winfield wrote in an e-mail interview.

Agreeing on the common agenda is an essential first step before any plans can be made for a new facility, Desprez said.

In the next month, Wolverine Wellness will be surveying the student body to see if they agree with the four goals proposed in the agenda before moving forward.

Students know the facts and know what is good for their personal well-being, Desprez said, but that does not necessarily correlate with a typical college social life. The hope is that Wolverine Wellness shows up more in a student’s everyday life as a reminder to make responsible decisions.

Wolverine Wellness recently piloted a new wellness coaching program where students can make an appointment with a wellness coach to talk and set goals for themselves.

Mobile applications including the Stress Buster and Stay In The Blue apps are other ways Wolverine Wellness is trying to stay at the forefront in students’ lives.

Another goal Desprez has for the Wolverine Wellness program is to cross-train coaches to know the connections between sexual health, eating and body image and alcohol- and drug-related issues, so they can properly educate and help students.

Winfield said alcohol use on campus is clearly related to issues of serious harm, including sexual assault, violence and academic failure, and hopes that the Wolverine Wellness program can work to address these issues and their causes.

Wolverine Wellness will also work to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental and behavior issues that students have, a concern voiced by students as well as administrators, Desprez said.

“I hope that students will be more accepting of imperfection, void of the stigma associated with mental and emotional health, and free from spaces that threaten the safety and wellbeing of others in the community,” Engineering senior Jake Heller, a student focus group participant, wrote in an e-mail.

This past weekend, Desprez and 29 University students and staff traveled to Purdue University and the University of Illinois to examine how other universities approach wellness in rec sports programs.

University staff from Student Life, Recreational Sports, University Unions, Auxiliary Capital Projects and Architecture, Engineering and Construction observed newly renovated spaces, including leisure pools, multi-activity courts and group exercise rooms and had the opportunity to speak to students and staff at the respective campuses.


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