Healthy living is a choice and a lifestyle, but unless you're in a supportive environment, it can be challenging. In 2013, UCLA launched the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI), envisioned and supported by Jane and Terry Semel, in an effort to "make the healthy choice the easy choice" for students, staff and faculty. By doing so, the campus has created a culture that prioritizes high-level wellness, encourages personal responsibility, respects diversity and strives to reduce inequities in health.
HCI has also inspired the UC Global Food Initiative, which involves all 10 University of California campuses in addressing global food issues. It also became a model for a nationwide program, launched by the Partnership for a Healthier America, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and others, to improve health and wellness on college campuses.
"We were doing a very good job at treating diseases, but we were not spending enough time and resources on health promotion and wellness activities in an integrated way, looking at the mind and body as an integrated approach," explains Wendy Slusser, MD, associate vice provost for HCI. "By living well, we can have a healthier and more productive life."HCI's multi-pronged program
Rooted in UCLA's long-term commitment to fostering a culture of emotional and physical health and well-being, HCI's multi-pronged program activities cover academic, experiential and structural approaches to living well. The working groups or "pods" that comprise the initiative provide resources, campus improvements, activities and education, among other things, to the more than 85,000 students, faculty and staff who live, study and work at UCLA.
The Healthy Campus Initiative is community driven, from the ground up, with full support from the chancellor's office. HCI didn't start from scratch; rather, it built upon the many existing programs and activities on campus that promoted health and well-being.
Each pod has a leader or co-leader. Dr. Slusser oversees the pods and has an expertise in nutrition and physical activity, which she says is her driving force. "I really feel that the way you live influences how you are in your physical and emotional health. What better place to do it than a university where you're educating the future leaders of our community, and at the same time, you're one of the No. 1 employers in California? HCI has the capacity to make a difference in communities across California in the long term."Healthy Campus Initiative "pods"
The initiative takes a five-pronged approach to promoting healthy living:
Activities include learning about food through the undergraduate food studies minor and experiencing healthy dining on campus in dining halls where no commercial soda is served. There are courses, such as We Are Stardust: The Moral Ecology of Food; and Food Studies and Food Justice in Los Angeles. There are also multiple campus community gardens.
Supports campus-wide fitness and activity programming, sports equity and inclusion, and movement research and course development.
Aims to promote mind, brain and spiritual well-being. Some activities it supports include Sleeping Well, Mindful Music and Free Mindful Meditation Drop-in Clinics, and an undergraduate life-skills course.
Promotes alternative transportation such as cycling and walking, taking the stairs when possible and improving the built environment to support physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
Supports UCLA as a smoke-free campus, which it has been since 2013.
"Up to 25 percent of students are choosing their campus based on wellness, or their kinds of wellness and activities," says Dr. Slusser. "With the Healthy Campus Initiative, those who choose UCLA will find the opportunity to live well as they define it."