According to Merriam-Webster, the word complex is defined as, “a whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts.” Complex seems to be the most accurate word to describe the challenges with the health and well-being of students on campus. Health concerns observed in higher education have ranged from mental health issues to increased alcohol use to social disconnect. A recent survey conducted by Best Colleges showed nearly 50% of college students surveyed struggled with isolation, anxiety and a lack of focus, which often precipitated academic failure and a decline in student persistence. With the convolution of health concerns realized on college campuses, developing and implementing integrated holistic health interventions is very successful.
Early implementation of a cohesive approach can aid students’ development of positive health behaviors and avoid developing negative health behaviors, which creates a good foundation for future optimal health. On the academic side, creating a system where all units on campus work together to develop a healthier environment has often led to success in the classroom, campus life satisfaction and retention.
An integrated method involves bridging the university collectively for the health success of the university community. Strategies for successful collaboration of different departments and units across campus include the creation of strong linkage services and breaking down existing silos.
To embrace the complexity of health and an integrated approach, the University of North Florida has found success in the creation of a campus-wide, holistic health initiative entitled Healthy Osprey. Healthy Osprey was established in the early 2000s with the purpose of transforming the health and well-being of the university community. It is a collaboration of students, faculty and staff working together to foster an environment that embraces the development of a healthy body, mind and spirit.
North Florida’s Approach in Action
Over the years, changes created by Healthy Osprey have been small, happening at the individual and interpersonal levels with programs and events but greater at an institutional level with policy changes. Healthy Osprey has participated in national initiatives such as the Partnership for Healthier America and the Okanagan Charter to challenge us in making our university healthier. It has also contributed to policy changes on campus from our mandated alcohol education policy to our smoke-free policy. This initiative has led the charge in building a strong community that supports healthy lifestyles.
In recent years, recognizing the ever-changing needs of our student body and surrounding community post-COVID, our strategies have evolved. Our current focus is to prepare and equip the whole student by purposefully integrating all aspects of wellness by adding two new paradigms: intersectionality and experiential wellness. We believe health and wellness should be all-encompassing, embracing everyone at every level and developing programming catered to the needs of our individual students.
Programs and services provided by Healthy Osprey align with the university’s guiding philosophies such as student-centeredness and innovation. Our goal is for our students to flourish inside and outside the classroom by using approaches such as:
- Cultivating character, enhancing resilience, and developing habits of mind and spirit.
- Adopting a holistic and comprehensive approach to mental health.
- Collaborating with Academic Affairs to embed well-being programming into the process of recruitment, registration and retention.
- Fostering conditions that enable students to thrive and addressing behaviors that lead to languishing.*
*adopted from Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development
Challenges and Benefits
The development and execution of Healthy Osprey came with its fair share of challenges and opportunities for growth. With budgetary constraints, conflicting objectives, operational silos and the fear of the unknown, factors such as these impacted the effectiveness of the initiative.
However, with the administration’s support, creating a successful integrated system required the understanding this campus-wide health initiative was important to everyone. Once the seed of collaboration and a unified approach was planted, changes led by Healthy Osprey encouraged the growth of the university community in every dimension of wellness. An integrated campus-wide health approach allows student lifestyles to truly blossom in health, contributing to academic success. For more information about Healthy Osprey, please visit: https://www.unf.edu/recwell/healthyosprey/index.html
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