April 3, 2013

By Robert K. Ross and Linda P.B. Katehi

Preventive measures and an active, healthy lifestyle are without question the best way to maintain good health and keep down health care costs for everyone, and the California Endowment and UC Davis want to spread that message far and wide.

The Endowment’s Health Happens Here campaign promotes the idea that people live longer, healthier lives when communities have access to healthy and affordable choices where they live, work, play and learn.

UC Davis is following the Health Happens Here model to help its students achieve healthy, vibrant lifestyles in an integrative wellness campaign that can be replicated at college campuses everywhere.

In support of this goal, UC Davis students will hold the first ever “5K Stride for Aggie Pride” on campus Sunday, April 7. In addition to raising money for scholarships and emergency funds for students in need, the event will formally launch the partnership between the Health Happens Here campaign and the UC Davis Division of Student Affairs.

We all know that staying healthy requires more than doctors and dieting. Every moment of our day, our surroundings and the decisions we make affect how well, and how long, we live.

A healthy life is directly connected to the streets in the neighborhoods we live in, the classrooms where our students spend half their waking day and our ongoing access to preventive health care.

The days of approaching health care as something we use only when we get sick must end. We all have a responsibility to promote healthy lifestyles and choices that keep us out of the doctor’s office and hospitals in the first place. It’s the best way to reach our full potential and to control runaway health care spending.

At UC Davis, the Division of Student Affairs has been following the Endowment’s Health Happens Here campaign to promote total wellness among its 34,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

The idea behind the UC Davis effort for school-based wellness is to provide what students need to live healthy lives so the right choice for them also becomes the easy choice.

From UC Davis’ dining services that are focused on sound and affordable nutrition to nurture the mind and body, to educational programs in affordable cooking and diet, the university is providing students with desirable and safe environments in which to develop both their enthusiasm and skills for preparing healthy meals. UC Davis students also have an opportunity to promote the health benefits of organic produce, running a 5-acre organic garden that is part of the university’s Student Farm Market Garden. The garden provides organic produce year-round to the dining services and to a seasonally operated campus farmer’s market.

Just as the Endowment promotes the availability of affordable and safe options for physical activities in neighborhoods throughout California, the campus at UC Davis offers students an abundance of opportunities for healthy exercise and exertion.

The university and the city of Davis have one of the most comprehensive networks of greenbelts and bike paths that enable and encourage students to move safely on and off-campus. With more registered bicycles than motor vehicles, Davis is a model of self-locomotion that provides physical and mental well-being as the same time it contributes to a cleaner and healthier environment.

UC Davis also offers a variety of recreational and athletic programming that promotes the idea that a good mind-body balance is critical to the success of any individual. We know that people who work hard are more successful when they’re active. There are few places where we see that reality played out on a daily basis more than a bustling and vibrant college campus.

Another important piece of the puzzle at UC Davis is the effort already underway to develop a strategic plan to guide transition to a tobacco-free campus by 2014. Eliminating smoking is essential to good health, and everything we do to help college students avoid tobacco will pay dividends for them – and for society – now and in the future.

Social, cultural and emotional health are also taken into consideration. The campus opened a new Student Community Center last year that helps promote social and emotional wellness through a variety of student services and programs that honor diversity, offer students of all backgrounds and interests places to gather, interact and to raise political and cultural awareness throughout the student population.

There is no doubt that everyone’s quality of health care can be better, more affordable and accessible if we focus more on preventing illnesses and disease rather than simply treating a patient when he or she is already very sick.

The California Endowment’s Health Happens Here is promoting that message throughout California. We are happy to report that UC Davis has embraced it and is working hard to integrate its principles fully on campus. That will help make for a healthier university, healthier students and a healthier California.

Robert K. Ross, M.D., is president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment, a health foundation established in 1996 to address the health needs of Californians. Linda P.B. Katehi is chancellor of the University of California, Davis.

Note: The California Endowment is a financial sponsor of HealthyCal.org.

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