School of Rural Public Health seeks to ‘Walk the Talk’ in health and wellness

September 20, 2013

Faculty at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health study and teach ways to promote public health, but until recently, they didn’t have a mechanism for encouraging healthy lifestyles in their own work environment.

Health and Wellness Committee

(left to right) Kellstedt, Tewke, Zamora, Benden, Ory, Towne, Schneider, Onyeakusi, Griffith

Jim Burdine, Dr.P.H., Interim Dean of the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, has established a Health and Wellness Committee to advise the school’s Executive Committee on actions to make the school a healthier workplace. Dr. Burdine believes the school can be a leader not only at our university in this important area, but should also serve as a resource for other workplaces in our community.

Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., will serve as chair with representation from faculty in all departments (Mark Benden, Ph.D., C.P.E., Jennifer Griffith, Dr.P.H., and Carmen Tewke, Ph.D.), staff (John Zamora, Debra Kellstedt, and Erin Schneider, M.P.H.) and students (Nnnaemeka Onyeakusi and Suzanne Swierc). Olga Gabriel, M.P.H., from the McAllen campus also serves on the committee.

“It is critical that the school take a leading role in demonstrating what can be done to improve health and well-being,” states Dr. Ory. “We want to ‘walk the talk’ and lead by example.”

Dr. Jim Burdine

Jim Burdine, Dr.P.H., Interim Dean of the School of Rural Public Health

The initial emphasis of the committee is to address lifestyle issues that are common to the onset and progression of many chronic diseases (smoking, physical activity, and poor dietary habits) and to increase awareness of screening, early detection, and quality care for cancer and other chronic conditions. The committee will begin by conducting a school-wide assessment of current awareness of workplace policies for addressing major health risk factors, obtain a baseline on current health related behaviors, and seek feedback on different strategies.

Already several strategies have been suggested such as walking meetings across campus to eat a healthy lunch and the development of signs to post around campus with quick reminders of easy ways to stay healthy.

— Laura Jo Clanton

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