Binghamton University’s strategic plan for health and wellness

Strategic plan for health and wellness aims to maximize opportunities for healthy choices.

Students participate in a Zumba class during Binghamton University's annual Health Fair. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Students participate in a Zumba class during Binghamton University's annual Health Fair.
Students participate in a Zumba class during Binghamton University's annual Health Fair. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Choose well. Be well.

That’s the slogan Binghamton University adopted when it instituted its Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI) in 2012, and a new HCI strategic plan aims to maximize the opportunities for students, faculty and staff to choose well and be well.

HCI was developed to educate people on the choices they make on a daily basis and how those choices impact their health, but also to raise awareness of the variety of options offered on campus that everyone – students, faculty and staff – can choose from based on their individual goals and needs.

“We didn’t want people to view the Healthy Campus Initiative as the “health police,” or as us telling them what they can and can’t do,” said Cindy Cowden, senior associate director of Campus Recreational Services and chair of the HCI Steering Committee. “We wanted to do a better job at making healthier choices more visible and readily available so that individuals could continue to make their own choices, whatever they may be.”

Healthy Campus is not one department or one program, but a collaborative initiative that encompasses many aspects of the University with the intention of improving the health culture on campus. A healthier campus supports greater success, engagement, satisfaction and productivity of the entire campus community.

“B-Healthy specifically states that our vision is to be a premier public university for innovation in campus and community health and well-being,” said Johann Fiore-Conte, assistant vice president for health and wellness. “This is what we are committed to.”

The University has made a commitment to making health and wellness a foundation of the Bearcat community from the moment a prospective student decides to apply.

“Promoting well-being is part of who we are, what we do, how we do business and what we value,” Cowden said. “And while the academic programs here are outstanding, adding this element to our profile is enticing to incoming students. Maybe health and wellness is something that’s of interest to them already and maybe it’s something they are willing to explore more when they get here.”

Engaging students in well-being throughout their college career is critical, Fiore-Conte said. “Beginning with admissions tours and orientation, we highlight the many services and opportunities students will have to maximize all aspects of their health and wellness while attending Binghamton.

“Some visible changes on campus since launching the HCI include healthy meal options in dining halls, hydration stations in buildings across campus, walking signs to signify the number of steps you’ve taken and a new meditation labyrinth,” Fiore-Conte added. “We also continue to explore making stronger connections with academics since research shows that improving health and well-being improves students’ capacity to learn, can reduce impediments to performance and helps with retention.”

“Teaching life skills and self-care is just as important as teaching students what they need to succeed in their career path,” Cowden said. “When you come to Binghamton University, not only are you going to leave with a degree, but you are going to leave with an education about how to be a whole person and how to live that on a daily basis.”

Faculty and staff can benefit from HCI initiatives as well.

For example, there is a Health and Wellness Incentive Reimbursement Pilot Program underway that allows eligible faculty and staff to apply for a 50 percent reimbursement of their FitSpace membership after completing a set number of exercise sessions. (FitSpace is a 10,000 square-foot facility in the Rec Center at the East Gym that features free weights, cardio machines and more.)

Binghamton University is focused on creating policies, procedures, resources and opportunities for members of the Binghamton University community to become more skilled, more knowledgeable, more interested and more effective in their health and well-being, Fiore-Conte said.

One such policy involves being tobacco-free. “We’re trying to educate the community about concerns tied to second-hand smoke and the environment,” Fiore-Conte said. “And also to outline the resources that are available on campus to help with tobacco cessation if someone chooses to take advantage of them.

“There’s more to be done, but the progress that has been made in a very short period of time and the accolades that we’ve been able to achieve are substantial and speak to the dedication of the University and all those working on this initiative,” Fiore-Conte said.

Posted in: Health, Campus News