National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities - 2019 National Summit
Building Cultures of Well-Being

April 29 – May 1
The Ohio State University

Join us for the next National Summit for Building Healthy Academic Communities April, 2019 at The Ohio State University. Mark your calendar!

Register here


2017 National BHAC Summit- University of Florida

Academic leaders, faculty, students and staff representing 88 institutions from across the United States gathered at the University of Florida last year for the third National Summit for Building Healthy Academic Communities. Summit participants included administrators, directors of health promotion and wellness, researchers, medical center personnel, human resource officers from academic institutions, and policymakers from professional organizations and academia. 

BHAC Summit Proceedings

Nationally known health and wellness experts gave innovative and timely presentations on the importance of creating the cultures of health in higher education at the summit. Speakers shared their expertise with participants, while stressing the importance of creating a national health movement.

Kathy Dempsey RN, a behavior change expert, award-winning author and speaker, and president and founder of Keep Shedding! Inc., spoke about the concept of shedding as related to behavior change. A former hospital executive, Dempsey discussed concepts outlined in her book, Shed or You’re Dead®: 31 Unconventional Strategies for Growth and Change. During her talk, she shared ideas for timely change management tools, innovative employee engagement strategies, and accelerated methods for building traction and accountability.

Ray Fabius, MD, global physician executive from the Harvard School of Public Health, Thomas Jefferson Population Health Academy, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Association of Physician Leadership, examined the components of a culture of health and discussed ways to connect health and wealth. He recently returned to his startup HealthNEXT, a company dedicated to the development of organizational cultures of health, where he is charged with providing counsel to leadership on business strategy and medical issues.

Amishi Jha, PhD, neuroscientist, director of Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research & Practice Initiative, principal investigator and associate professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, provided details regarding key aspects of mindfulness training programs. Jha’s work is focused on investigating potential applications of mindfulness training in education, sports, business and the military by studying the neural aspects of attention and the effects of mindfulness-based training programs on cognition, emotion and resilience.

Bernadette Melnyk PhD, RN, CPNP/ PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for Health Promotion, university chief wellness officer, dean and professor of the College of Nursing, and professor of Pediatrics & Psychiatry at the College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, spoke about the current state of health and wellness in academic institutions. Melnyk discussed how mental health issues impact college campuses, and shared strategies to overcome them.

Raj Patel PhD, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, research professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, and senior research associate, Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University, shared ideas on ending U.S. food insecurity, including evidence of holistic strategies to end malnutrition in academic institutions.


Critical themes of health and wellness were evident in this year’s summit. Major areas of discussion included mental health, food insecurity, community outreach and comprehensive approaches to improving health using evidence-based strategies. Among them:

Programs promoting mental health were prevalent throughout the summit. Scott Rodgers, PhD, discussed Moving the Needle on Mindfulness for Students, Faculty and Staff. Shanna Moody and Stephanie Robertson shared Combining Mental Health Treatment and Exercise into an Integrated College Wellness Model: Whole Texans. Chris Lantz, PhD; Bill Kawczynski; and Steve Elliot, PhD presented Protecting the Protectors: Ensuring Wellness in Our Student Veteran Populations.

Community engagement was also discussed throughout the two-day summit, where several examples of university outreach efforts were shared with attendees. Neal Andrews, Cristin Stokes and Mary Lachenbruch spoke on Reaching Audiences through Digital Media: How Montana University System Pressed Play on Well-Being. Jack Payne, PhD; Elaine Turner, PhD, Anna Prizzia, MS; Ambre Hobson and Sundeep Singh, all from the University of Florida’s Field and Fork Food Program, conducted a panel talk on Working Together for the Gator Good, discussed the growing need for food pantries and serving food insecure populations. Nikki Brauer, MS shared How One Midwestern Institution Uses a Comprehensive Approach to Campus Wellness: STATE Your Wellness!

Some sessions presented comprehensive approaches to health and wellness initiatives where resources are provided to students, faculty and staff. Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, RN, FAAN shared ideas for Healing with the Arts: Creating a Healthy Community with Creative Activism. Marlene Green and Robert Benge, PhD discussed A Diabetes Intervention: Using Biometric Screenings and Group Educational Seminars to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes. Erin Litton, MA presented Health Behavior Change through Coaching: A Multi-Modal Approach.

Several breakout presenters highlighted the importance of measuring, demonstrating outcomes and using evidence-based practices. Adam Moen shared Over 36,500 Data Points: What Real Time Student Mental Health Data Say about Your Campus. Craig Becker, PhD spoke about Using Data to Build a Healthier Academic Community. Janet Bezner, PT, DPT, PhD; Lisa Lloyd, PhD; and Sylvia Crixell, PhD, RD presented Implementing a Cost-Effective, Comprehensive Employee Wellness Program in a University Setting.

Attendees Practice What They Preach

In addition to providing the latest evidence on best practices to support health and wellness in academic institutions, the summit sought to enhance the wellness of attendees. Activities provided throughout the Summit included:

  • Stadium Conditioning
  • LaBlast Fitness Dance Session
  • Adult Recess
  • Yoga
  • Campus Walking Tour
  • Pop Up Park
  • Coffee Cup Mandala Creativity Exercise

Special Guests Speak Candidly about Their Wellness Journeys

Lunchtime featured former Ohio State and Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith, who discussed the importance of health promotion in the student populations and the role social connections can play in adherence to healthy behaviors. LaBlast Fitness creator and Dancing with the Stars professional dancer Louis Van Amstel talked about the importance of student, faculty and staff physical activity and mental health, and led summit participants in a lunchtime dance session.

The BHAC Knowledge Bank of Best Practices, Tools and Resources to Support Academic Wellness

A BHAC KNOWLEDGE BANK, which is a clearinghouse of best practices, tools and resources, is available to all attendees of the summit. They can be found at

Participant Feedback

“Overall, really well done. Love the depth of topics covered and felt the conference was very high quality.”

“I would love to see a focus on subsets of students that experience particular challenges to health, for example, students with disabilities.”

“The topics were relevant and interesting, opportunity to network was great.”

“It was great to hear from different institutions in the break-out sessions.”