Juniata College Wellness Committee Inspires Wellness

The Juniata College Wellness Committee is a Force For Health in Huntingdon

By Emma Hannan

Since 2005, Juniata College’s Wellness Committee has been providing opportunities for faculty, staff, and students at Juniata to learn, live, and share the skills needed to live a healthy lifestyle. As the third largest employer in Huntingdon, the College impacts a large portion of borough’s population through its wellness programs.

The Wellness Committee, led by Cady Kyle and Andrea Smith of Juniata’s Human Resources Office, offers several programs, classes, and health screenings to the campus community on a regular basis. Part of the Committee’s mission at Juniata is to “encourage habits of wellness” and to “inspire and empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health,” says Kyle. “We want to provide holistic ways to support the health and well-being of everyone on campus.”

Overall, the Committee’s efforts have been very successful. Throughout any week at Juniata, students, faculty, administration, and staff have options for a variety of programs from the Wellness Committee. Weekly wellness programs on campus include yoga, Pilates, spin classes, and Weight Watchers meetings, and other annual events from the Committee have become long-standing campus traditions.

One of the most popular events on campus is the Health Fair, regularly held in October. The Fair features presenters from various community constituents who provide free health related information and services to attendees.  Additionally in October, employees can take advantage of a free and confidential biometric screening of blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and BMI that helps both the employee and the Wellness Committee set goals and programming priorities. “High blood pressure was found to be a priority health issue in our most recent biometric screening,” Kyle explained. As a direct response to this finding, the Committee organized a biweekly blood pressure screening on campus that is free to all Juniata community members to help biometric screening participants track their progress.

Combatting obesity was another top priority for this year’s programming. Several initiatives are taking place on campus to provide the Juniata community with opportunities to learn about fitness and compete in challenges. The Step Up to the Challenge program pits Juniata faculty and staff against Susquehanna University in a battle to achieve the most steps over a six-week period. Participants are incentivized to maximize the number of steps they log in a day to “out-step” their Susquehanna opponents, and the participation level has historically been strong.

Another popular fitness initiative from the Wellness Committee includes CAMPus FIT AMPED, a challenge that takes place over the summer where participants earn badges for logging physical activity, attending camp events such as hikes and dance events, and participating in community service.

Lunch & Learns provide another opportunity for the Juniata community to learn about their health without having to break a sweat. This brown bag lunch series features local experts talking about health issues such as mental health, diabetes, stomach cancer, healthy aging, among other pertinent health issues. The series runs twice monthly throughout the academic year and are generally scheduled in accordance with National Health Observances.

All the wellness programs on campus contribute to the Wellness Rewards, a system that allows employees to earn points towards stipends and vacation days by participating in wellness activities on campus or on their own. “The program is very well received and we have a mix of faculty, administration, staff and facilities workers participate,” Kyle says of the Wellness Rewards. Over 144 participants signed up for 2017’s iteration of the Wellness Program, and the Committee is optimistic about participation for 2018.

The outcomes of the campus wellness programming, according to Cady Kyle, have been noticeable and beneficial to the Juniata community. “There was a period of about four years where we were able to hold our health plan premiums relatively flat, which we believe was a direct result of employee awareness of tolls for disease prevention as well as participation in wellness initiatives,” she says. Additionally, Kyle notes an increase in job satisfaction and engagement as well as low absenteeism and turnover that contributes to Juniata’s longstanding position on The Chronicle for Higher Education’s Great Places to Work.

Although the Wellness Committee at Juniata has already proven successful, they are not slowing down on providing engaging wellness opportunities for the Juniata community, including more student-focused initiatives. “It is our hope that with student input, and by partnering with Health & Wellness, the Counseling Center, and the S.P.O.T [Juniata’s Office of Interpersonal Violence Prevention], we can provide new wellness offerings of interest to students,” Kyle says.

To learn more about the Wellness Committee at Juniata College, visit http://www.juniata.edu/offices/human-resources/wellness/wellness-committee.php or contact Cady Kyle ([email protected]) or Andrea Smith ([email protected]).

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