Healthy Jenna studentEducating the entire College community on healthy living creates opportunities for the futures of the staff, faculty and, of course, the students.

By Diane Atwood ’77

In 2008, Saint Joseph’s College took the first steps toward a more healthy and overall active campus community. From an office in the Harold Alfond Center, Maureen LaSalle, now the director of the Center, events and wellness, sketched out what would become the popular Wellness Program the College has today. For LaSalle, it’s been a positive experience for her, her staff and the entire community.

“Wellness is about building relationships,” says LaSalle, and she couldn’t be more right.

In 2010, exercise science major Jenna Chase began an internship with LaSalle, working with the Wellness Program. Since graduating in 2011, Chase is now the program’s coordinator. “She’s the face of the program for the College community,” says LaSalle, who does work more “behind the scenes” for the Wellness Program.

Chase’s passion for wellness and level of commitment to the program are quickly apparent. Look at one of the monthly wellness calendars she shares with the community and you’ll find Lunch & Learns on a variety of topics, a cooking series, CPR and first aid classes, nutrition and physical activity challenges, and motivational tips. Those are on top of more than a half dozen fitness classes being offered.

Jessica Milose, a marketing coordinator at the College, has sampled them all. Milose is also the dance club advisor and takes courses online in the graduate program. Because the fitness classes and wellness programs are offered on campus during the day, she can fit them into her busy schedule. “I can take advantage of the programs during my lunch break or after the work day,” she says. “I am more motivated to go to the gym because I know each class will offer something different. I also appreciate the variety of Lunch & Learns and workshops. I have learned how to handle my finances, make a soup and save a life.”

An added benefit beyond feeling healthier is that you can earn Wellness Points, says human resources specialist Jackie Cattabriga ’03. “While I do most wellness activities for the fun of it and to try to keep a healthy weight and lifestyle,” she explains, “I also participate in some to get Wellness Points contributed by the College to my medical spending account.” Participants in the College health insurance plans can earn up to $300 each year in points, or dollars (one point equals $1), by participating in various wellness activities.”

The enthusiasm shared by the administrators of this program, like Chase and LaSalle, and by community members, like Cattabriga, reflects a trend that LaSalle saw both at the implementation of the College’s program and today. According to a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately half of U.S. employers with 50 or more employees now offer wellness promotion initiatives. The researchers concluded that, “Consistent with published evidence, we find solid evidence that well-run programs operated by committed employers can meaningfully improve the health-related behaviors and health status of participating employees.” That’s a positive for the College and its entire community, and something that Chase and LaSalle happily keep an eye on as the Wellness Program continues on into the future.

For Our Students

As the focus on employee wellness widens and also sharpens, the need for well-trained health educators is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Employment of health educators is expected to grow by 37 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by efforts to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people about healthy habits and behaviors.”

At the forefront of this trend is Saint Joseph’s, which, in addition to its exercise science major, now offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Wellness Promotion. The program prepares students to become leaders in the field of health education, just as Jenna Chase is now doing. Dr. Amy Rady, a physical education professor, helps oversee the new program. “With the fact that every day 10,000 people turn 65, there will be more and more need for health professionals, and not just doctors and nurses,” she asserts. “We need people who can direct these programs and work in the communities. The new major offers a tremendous number of opportunities to individuals who were not sure where they might want to emphasize their studies.”

Sophomores Lauren Worrell and Courtney Ashley both switched from nursing programs to pursue a health and wellness promotion degree. “I wasn’t really sure if the nursing program was for me, but the health and wellness program was right up my alley,” says Worrell. “I want to do something to help people and I also want to work in a hospital environment. Maybe someday I can even run a hospital.”

Ashley transferred from another college. “I wasn’t really into nursing,” she admits, “I was more interested in the business part of a hospital. It’s one of the reasons I chose Saint Joseph’s. I want to be involved in creating programs and changing health care to something that is more affordable, more hands-on and more personal. You need a broad health background for that, and this is a good program for that.”

Rady points out that the new degree program can also benefit teachers in the community who have degrees in physical education, but not health education. The College now offers the courses they need to complete in order to apply to the state for a concentration in health education. “We provide the students and the community at large with an opportunity to have both certifications,” she says, “and to enable them to be marketable – marketability is everything.”

As the country grapples with how to provide excellent, accessible and affordable health care, the care model is evolving into one that focuses on keeping people well and out of hospitals. As individuals, we often struggle to know what we need to do to be healthy and where to access appropriate tools and support. Saint Joseph’s College has a reputation for creating innovative programs that offer new and meaningful opportunities for its students. With its Wellness Program and its new health and wellness promotion degree program, the College is providing healthy opportunities not only for its students, but also for its employees and the entire community.