• Posted on: 9 August 2019
  • By: lwiseblau

We recently reached out to Lisa Hicks, PhD, Campus Wellness engagement director and Katherine Matutes, PhD, Campus Wellness coordinator at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy) to learn more about their school’s health and wellness programming. The two offered terrific insights on how they have built a comprehensive wellness program for UIndy staff.

First established in 1902, the University of Indianapolis is home to 7000 full- and part-time students, 328 faculty and 472 staff. The school offers more than 100 undergraduate degree programs, more than 40 master’s degree programs, and five doctoral programs. It produces more physical therapists, occupational therapists, and clinical psychologists than any other university in Indiana. It also offers the state’s only neonatal nurse practitioner program.

UIndy’s employee wellness initiative first began several years ago as a service initiative by the Kinesiology department. Due to significant growth and employee interest, the university opted to develop a newly funded program, Be Well, which officially started last January. Though it is in its infancy, program participation is at 30 percent, the kind of engagement numbers that rival more established programs. “It’s clear our employees are ready, we just need to meet their needs,” said Matutes. The Be Well leaders also works with the university student wellness program managed by the student affairs department,

The school had some healthy initiatives in place before Be Well was created, including a smoke-free campus and signage that promoted better living like recycling and using stairs. UIndy encourages employees to take regular meditation breaks at its on-campus meditation room. For many years employees were encouraged to participate in onsite biometric screenings conducted by UIndy’s health sciences students and faculty. The school recently added a requirement to complete a physical in order to be eligible to receive a portion of their HSA contributions

Among Be Well’s inaugural programming includes a 16-week weight management class. Of the 75 percent of participants who completed this course, the average bodyweight loss was between 5–12 percent bodyweight.  Matutes says they will be tweaking this class moving forward. “We plan to offer this program again but require participants to pay a portion of the fee upfront which will be refunded upon 80 percent class attendance rates in hopes of improving retention.”

Other Be Well offerings include on-site discounted massage. “We began by offering this service once per month, then twice and are still completely booking up offered dates with three days per month,” Matutes said. It also began a campus wide-steps challenge that involved about 10 percent of faculty and staff.

Be Well enjoys encouragement from UIndy’s president, as well as support from internal partners: EAP, Anthem and the school’s health plan, and external partners: the YMCA and Community Health Network, Hospitals. “We have a small, dedicated budget so we are moving in the right direction but continue to address the needs for increased visibility and financial support to have a lasting impact,” Matutes said.

Be Well has a programming committee comprising volunteers from approximately 30 percent of UIndy departments. The group meets quarterly to deliver employee-driven guidance on programming plans. In the upcoming year, Be Well will be recruiting ‘champions’ to help spread the word about the wellness offerings on campus in hopes of encouraging grass roots growth. “The grassroots movement is the traction we need to make a permanent culture shift towards daily wellness habits in our work environment,” said Matutes. “Our champion network will grow to include more departments and allow wellness programming to reach more employees on a daily basis.”

When asked about advice for other academic wellness organizations, Matutes says program staff should communicate with its target audience often, early and repeatedly. “Employees get an onslaught of messages from the university. It is easy to get lost in the noise so we also use word of mouth and we are developing an interactive website as a resource with the goal to drive employees to that source for details.”