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.

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