UI named healthiest university in Iowa

BY SAM LANE | OCTOBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM

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With its antismoking campaigns and future multimillion-dollar wellness center, the UI has earned the title of healthiest university in Iowa.

Several state health organizations will present the UI with the Healthy Iowa Award for Healthiest College/University tonight at 5 p.m. at the Hy-Vee Conference Center in West Des Moines.

“It’s a great opportunity to show that there are a lot of positive things going on here,” said Tanya Villhauer, the coordinator of Health Iowa, a branch of UI Student Health Service.

Villhauer and other health officials at the UI underwent an intense application process for the award. Applicants had to include information regarding what the university is doing to keep students, faculty, and staff healthy.

“We don’t just have programs that are keeping healthy people healthy, we also have programs to help people make healthy choices,” said Megan Moeller, coordinator of UI Wellness.

In its application, the UI highlighted programs including smoking counseling, alcohol issues, physical activity, and nutrition.

Perhaps the most notable part of the UI’s application, however, is the new $7 million Campus Recreation & Wellness Center set to open in August 2010.

The center includes a 20,000-square-foot fitness space containing cardio equipment and weights.
The university’s three main health departments — Health Iowa, UI Wellness, and Recreational Services — will all move into the new wellness center to form the “Wellness Suite of Offices.” This change likely helped win the Healthy Iowa Award, said Recreation Services Director Harry Ostrander.

“The credit goes to the other programs,” Ostrander said. “Even without the facility, they’ve offered a lot of programs.”

Health Iowa educates students on how to stay active during college and offers resources on sexual health and nutrition. UI Wellness, the health branch reaching out to faculty and staff members, offers fitness seminars taught in UI employees’ offices, as well as free smoking cessation counseling.

Jenny Weber, the director for the Wellness Council of Iowa, said the integration of programs among students, faculty, and staff helped the UI win the award.

“They work with one another,” she said. “The university works together, not only within the 30,000 people at the university but within the community too.”

The Healthy Iowa Awards are presented by the Wellness Council of Iowa, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nurtrition, and the Academy for a Healthy Iowa. Weber said they hope the UI’s selection will provide healthy competition among universities.

“We want the University of Iowa to be something [Iowa State University] wants to mimic,” Weber said. “Eventually, the academy wants Iowa to be the healthiest state in the nation.”

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