University of Essex
University of Essex

April 26, 2017

Encouraging a healthy university for all

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out some innovative and interesting ways in which we can all live and work better. Here, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, tells us more.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Being healthy does not just mean being free from disease or infirmity, healthy means being in a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being. That is what we want for our staff and our students.

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out the ways in which we are going to get there. It is an ambitious plan but as a University with academic and professional expertise in mental and physical well-being, I think it is entirely right that we push ourselves. And it is about more than just exercise and diet; it is about creating a healthier community on all campuses, engendering cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice. This isn’t just about feeling better – it’s about being better too, which links well to our People Supporting Strategy and its underpinning principles, particularly the principle ‘Fit to Work’.

But a healthy University needs everyone to take part, so what does the strategy want us all to do? First, our Students’ Union, under the leadership of Vice-President Welfare Jess Rich and President Zoe Garshong, is launching a new and timely campaign called Wake Up to Well-Being, and also asks everyone: have you had your alternative five a day? The SU has appointed volunteer mental health ambassadors, and will be launching a new video shortly about what everyone can do to raise the baselines of mental health.

Our Health University action plan then has three priority themes:

  • Food and mood
  • Physical well-being
  • Mental well-being

These themes will be embedded across our whole University, encouraging both staff and students to take part.

We believe that our University should be a place where work is psychologically and emotionally healthy and where staff and students are encouraged to balance their work life and personal life. The strategy builds on the work we have already done, including encouraging further engagement with the Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health and our Student Support teams. We will also offer training on physical fitness, resilience, mental health first aid, and provide a variety of health and well-being interventions. We have also built external partnerships with Public Health Essex and Health in Mind.

We have also recognised the importance of being vigilant in searching for signs that someone may be struggling with their well-being. We will ensure our staff have the skills and knowledge to recognise and respond to such signs, referring those in need to the right help and support.

Overall we want our community to take an active approach to their own well-being; engaging in activities and building their own resilience, ultimately helping them remain well. Our Healthy University Action Plan contains 49 activities across the three priority themes and includes everything from ensuring there are plenty of healthy food options, to encouraging walking meetings, offering mindfulness and meditation classes, Friday shiatsu sessions, delivery of fresh fruit baskets, take-the-stairs stickers in Southend, and the creation of a new Well-being work out.

This is a timely opportunity for all of us to improve the ways we live and work and we will be communicating the opportunities regularly. Look out for updates and please do get involved wherever you can.



April 4, 2017

Launching our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science

This summer will see two exciting developments within the Faculty of Science and Health. Executive Dean Professor Graham Underwood and Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences Vikki-Jo Scott, tell us more:

Professor Graham Underwood

Professor Graham Underwood

I am delighted that we are forming the first new school at the University for ten years – the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

This new School will bring together a new group of disciplines, joining academic teams from sports therapy and physiotherapy in the current School of Health and Human Sciences with those in the Centre of Sports and Exercise Science, currently within the School of Biological Sciences.

This is an exciting opportunity to develop sport and rehabilitation as a combined academic grouping at Essex to help us deliver excellence in education and excellence in research.

This is a coherent grouping of disciplines and will open up great opportunities for a range of different research collaborations around health and wellbeing. It will encourage working across disciplines and open up new research opportunities.

The School’s research will focus on two areas:

  • health, exercise and active lifestyle
  • sports performance and fatigue

It will mean researchers in sports and exercise science will benefit from regular interactions with academic scholars/practitioners with physiotherapy, sports therapy and rehabilitation expertise. We are hoping this will support our developing research culture in sports therapy and physiotherapy that has, until now, been largely focused on professional practice.

This new grouping of disciplines will mean Essex will be offering something a bit different from other higher education institutions in that we can bring new depth to our research and offer a much broader exercise and wellbeing package, from cradle to the grave.

Our new School with also place Essex in a better position to reflect NHS England’s five-year Forward View, which aims to reduce the nation’s health and wellbeing gap by supporting a healthier and fitter population.

The new School’s staffing infrastructure will enable us to integrate our research and education provision in the areas of healthy lifestyle, rehabilitation and sports performance. So, as well as supporting this NHS health agenda, we will continue our excellent work with elite athletes.

The new sports hall building will act as a hub for the new School, integrating education and research into the University’s sport and wellbeing agenda. Due to open during the 2017-18 academic year, the new sports building will house bespoke offices, teaching facilities, laboratories and therapy rooms to complement the existing labs already on our Colchester Campus. This includes the on-site sports therapy clinic which has been a huge success since opening to staff and students in the autumn.

This new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences will mean a new name for the School of Health and Human Sciences, as Head Vikki-Jo Scott explains.

Vikki-Jo Scott

Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences, Vikki-Jo Scott

Our School of Health and Human Sciences is a pioneering department committed to making a difference to local, national and international health and social care, through education, research and knowledge transfer.

Over the next five years the NHS is proposing to dissolve the traditional boundaries between health and social care. To mirror this and better reflect the range of research, professional and education interests of staff and students within the School, we will be renamed the School of Health and Social Care from August 2017.

There is a national trend towards better collaboration between health and social care services and we want to train and support professionals who will be better prepared to work in this new culture of collaboration. This includes recognising the significant contribution that inter-professional learning and service user engagement can make to the high quality education we provide and research that we generate at Essex.

With a stronger focus on research, the School’s new name will better reflect the already excellent collaborative work we are doing in health and social care. We have streamlined our research into four themes to reflect our expertise at Essex. We specialise in applied, multi-disciplinary research that addresses local, national and international issues relating to health and social care policy and practice, and other related fields.

Our four key areas of research are:

  • mental health and psychological wellbeing
  • research for public and patient benefit
  • social policy and social care
  • health professions education and workforce development research

Health and social care provision is changing and our plans build on the School’s existing strengths and place us on a solid footing for the future to continue to deliver the high quality provision of education and research we are known for in this field.