New committee to promote greater workplace health and wellness at IU

Oct. 14, 2013


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University officials have announced the formation of a new committee charged with developing a system-wide, comprehensive approach to fostering better health and wellness within the university community.

The new Wellness Steering Committee will seek to help IU employees lead healthier lives and keep down health care costs by initiating new, campus-specific wellness programming across IU campuses and making available educational resources on such important health-related issues as fitness and movement, nutrition, stress reduction and weight management.

The committee, which will include subject matter experts and campus leaders from across the university, will also explore wellness incentives that encourage IU employees to take control of their personal health care. Patty Hollingsworth, director of health engagement at IU, will chair the committee.

More than 40 percent of all health care expenses in the U.S. stem from preventable chronic illnesses that are most often caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, including physical inactivity, tobacco use and unhealthy eating habits, said IU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer MaryFrances McCourt, adding that the committee's goals will go well beyond reducing health care costs.

“In recent years, many dedicated individuals at Indiana University have devoted a great deal of effort toward improving employee health. This new initiative will build on those efforts, while taking wellness at IU to the next level,” McCourt said. “Studies have shown that maintaining a healthier workforce can have a tremendous impact on direct costs such as insurance premiums, but we’re also looking just as much at important indirect costs such as employee morale, recruitment and retention, and enhanced workplace culture.

“IU employees deserve to be happy, healthy and enthusiastic about their own commitment to being there for their families, friends and loved ones for the long haul,” McCourt added. “Through this initiative, we’re seeking to give employees new resources and incentives to take greater control over their personal health and the costs associated with health care.”

In developing new programming and initiatives, the committee will draw upon the talent and expertise housed within IU’s two new schools of public health: the Fairbanks School of Public Health on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus and the School of Public Health-Bloomington. In addition, the Office of the President at IU has pledged financial support for initiatives that are created as result of the Wellness Steering Committee's work.

As part of its mission, the new committee will work with health and fitness organizations on all campuses and university communities to provide IU employees with easy access to new and existing wellness programs and educational resources. In addition, it will explore the creation of a new website that would include links to such information as class schedules, campus-specific walking maps, ideas for office workouts, stress relief tips and testimonials.

“Wellness, in itself, is not complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot,” McCourt said. “But it is a commitment. I’m extremely excited about the work this committee will do to energize IU employees to make that commitment and find activities that will make them feel better about themselves and the places they work.”

The committee expects to make its recommendations for new programs and initiatives in spring 2014.