A new year. A renewed focus on health and wellness at Mary Baldwin University. Mary VanNortwick feels the momentum.

“I’m so encouraged by the conversations I have had with many people about their personal wellness goals and ideas for programs that promote a healthy campus community,” said VanNortwick, Mary Baldwin wellness and nutrition coach.

In October, 125 faculty, staff, and spouses participated in the first on-campus health assessment by the college’s new healthcare management provider, Viridian. Those employees and family members learned their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other basic health measures on the spot. A few weeks later, they received detailed information about their mental and physical wellbeing and potential risk factors.

In response to student suggestions, VanNortwick plans to offer a similar health assessment to students in fall 2014.

news_wellness2Viridian’s approach involves more engagement than previous programs, giving participants more ownership of their overall health and creating a culture of support, VanNortwick said. In addition to working with individuals, she is working on a series of “Well by Choice” posters that feature faculty, staff, and students and coordinating group activities that address a wide range of health topics such as weight loss, tobacco cessation, and physical activity.

VanNortwick also worked with a class to create The Skinny on Local Dining, a flyer that identifies healthy dishes at local restaurants.

Last week, VanNortwick followed up to let each person know how he or she can earn the monthly health insurance deduction that comes with participation. She noted that most Mary Baldwin members fall in the low-risk category, meaning that they need to have a consultation session either with a Viridian professional or VanNortwick, a general physical check-up, and take part in in four additional wellness activities by the end of the calendar year. Tracking participation is made easy by checking in with VanNortwick or using the electronic form.

The holistic program makes sense to Carey Usher, associate professor of sociology and associate dean of the college.

“When I think about wellness, I think of the ability to really be who you are, to appreciate who you are, to take good care of that individual in every way to maximize your gifts and talents,” she said.

As co-director of the First-Year Experience, Usher recognizes how significantly wellness messages can influence Mary Baldwin’s student body.

“It doesn’t take long to turn a behavior into a habit,” she said. “If we can expose students to healthier ways of living, thinking, and working while they are adjusting college life, it will be easier for them to develop healthy habits.”

The Healthy Lifestyles Gateway continues to be one of the most effective ways for students to weave wellness into college life. Designed for first-year students who want to practice and promote healthy and active lifestyles, participants complete wellness assessments, create individualized life-vision maps, and prepare a nutritious Thanksgiving dinner together, among other activities.

Former Healthy Lifestyles Gateway leader Irene Sarnelle, associate professor of health and physical education, said that often the biggest obstacle to achieving wellness — for students, faculty, and staff — is making a time commitment to a healthy activity.

“It sounds cliché, but if you take the time to do something that makes you healthier, you truly are more effective and efficient in other areas of your life. You don’t feel like you’re ‘losing’ that time,” Sarnelle said.

She advises people to try just one new activity at first until it becomes part of a routine. Sarnelle is a big fan of the monthly Mary Baldwin contra dances, which she has helped organize for many years.

“The dances are a unique event in the area,” she said, “and they are heart-pounding exercise, smoke- and alcohol-free, and family-friendly.”

On-campus activities that help students, faculty, and staff stay healthy this semester — many of which qualify for the 2014 wellness incentive program — include:

  • My Wellbeing Forum: A series of five fast-paced discussions based on the bestseller Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. Meets 12–12:45 p.m. on 1/16, 2/20, 3/20, 4/17, and 5/1, SAC Clubroom.
  • Muscle Hustle: Thursdays 4:30–5:20 p.m., PAC Dance Studio.
  • Hydration Challenge: Participants focus on drinking 64 ounces of water each day from January 13 to 31 with chances to win prizes.
  • Zumba:  6–6:50 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, PAC Dance Studio.
  • Spring Contra Dances: 1/25, 2/15, 3/15, and 4/19. Dance workshop 7:30 p.m., dance 8–11 p.m., PAC Dance Studio.
  • Flu Shot Clinic: Visit the Mary Baldwin Health Center between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • My Healthy Weight: A checklist-style series designed to get participants started on weight-loss goals. Meets 9 –9:30 a.m. on 1/14, 1/21, and 1/28, SAC Clubroom.
  • Recreational Yoga: Tuesdays 4:30–5:20 p.m. and Wednesdays 12–12:50 p.m., PAC 213.
  • Financial Wellbeing: A three-part series that examines how financial health affects total health. Meets 9-9:30 a.m. on 2/11, 2/18, and 2/25, SAC Clubroom.
  • Relay for Life: American Cancer Society event April 5 and 6, PAC.
  • Walking Incentive: Look for information about a pedometer program in April.
  • For more wellness ideas and information, visit www.marybaldwin.edu/business_and_finance/hr/well-by-choice.