Healthier Campus Initiative energizes wellness programs
When Liberty University signed onto the Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Healthier Campus Initiative (HCI) in the spring of 2016, it committed to elevate a culture on campus that encourages and supports healthier eating habits and greater physical activity.
Liberty received the PHA’s glass apple award this month for successfully implementing the required guidelines, becoming the 32nd United States school (there are now 43) to reach the HCI commitment within a three-year period.
“By becoming a Healthier Campus Initiative-designated campus, Liberty is helping to lead the way in higher education in showing the importance of holistic wellness,” said Dr. Keith Anderson, executive director of the Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives.
Anderson said that while most of the guidelines outlined by the PHA focus on meeting physical and nutritional wellness objectives, the university has gone beyond that to factor in each of his department’s nine dimensions of wellness: intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, digital, occupational, and social.
The university formed a Live Healthy Liberty Campus Coalition that meets quarterly to develop and refine a Campus Wellness Plan. This plan educates, equips, and empowers students, faculty, and staff to make healthy choices. The coalition includes representatives from the Student Health Center, Student Counseling Services, Sodexo Dining Services, Student Life, the Office of Spiritual Development, the Rawlings School of Divinity, the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Law, the School of Business, the Center for Financial Literacy, Information Services, and the College of Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASAS), among other departments and organizations. Its next meeting is scheduled for May 22.
“Partners across the campus are all cooperatively assisting us in meeting these criteria for the PHA,” Anderson said. “Also, through the Student Wellness Committee, the student body was able to assist in developing a wellness plan that they wanted to see on their campus.”
Students serve as Peer Health Educators to teach residential classmates a variety of health and wellness topics and assist Anderson’s staff in connecting them with resources available on campus.
Sodexo, Liberty’s dining services provider, meets the nutritional guidelines of the initiative, such as offering a minimum of five types of fruit, five vegetables, and two 100 percent whole grain products at both lunch and dinner and providing a comparable plant-based food option at every station that serves meat.
Recognizing that physical activity has a direct effect on a student’s academic performance, on-campus improvements made over the past three years include increasing and diversifying the types of fitness options available through various departments that offer recreational activities.
“Our students, faculty, and staff have access to some of the most state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, as well as peer health educators and volunteer student representatives who help them meet their wellness goals,” Anderson said.
The LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center, expanded in 2014, offers more than 135,000 square feet of space dedicated to physical activity, including expansive strength and conditioning areas with top-of-the-line equipment, studios for 20 forms of group exercise, indoor soccer fields; basketball, volleyball, and racquetball courts; a rock wall; an aquatics center; and an indoor track.
Liberty’s Intramural Sports and Club Sports departments support recreational and competitive seasons with close to 50 sports ranging from archery and beach volleyball to Ultimate Frisbee and wrestling.
Liberty offers multiple outlets for exercise, including the six-race Liberty Mountain Trail Series, clinics in mountain biking and outdoor skills, and adventure trips for everything from camping, hiking, and rock climbing to kayaking and whitewater rafting, horseback riding, skiing, and snowboarding.