With Ottawa County being named the healthiest county in Michigan for three years in a row, Grand Valley State University has decided to join the fight promoting healthy lifestyle choices on campus by joining Partnership for a Healthier America. GVSU was one of six new PHA campus partners announced in May.
PHA is a nonprofit organization chaired by First Lady Michelle Obama. The goal of the program is to combat childhood obesity through foods and nutrition. Partners include well-known companies such as Nike,Walmart, Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other universities like Florida State University and Ohio State University.
GVSU signed onto the program, agreeing to follow and complete 23 guidelines by April 2019. Some of the guidelines include providing a marked walking route on campus stretching at least two miles in length and implementing a “comprehensive” plan within dining venues to encourage healthy eating. GVSU already offers or has already implemented 12 of the 23 guidelines.
The move to join PHA by GVSU’s Health and Wellness Task Force was to “provide a healthy environment for faculty, staff, and students,” said Lindsey DesArmo, a GVSU Health and Wellness specialist.
“We looked at this program and decided we wanted to sign on for it because we are already doing a lot of things to promote healthy eating and physical activity on campus, but we want to take it to the next level,” DesArmo said.
In order to participate in the program, GVSU has to cover the cost of a third-party verifier to confirm if they qualify for all of the 23 guidelines, which amounts to $4,020. DesArmo said the task force is still assessing the cost of implementing the guidelines, but she estimates it will be very minimal for the remaining 11 guidelines.
“There’s no penalty if we don’t meet one of the guidelines we said we would, but we are paying to have them verify it, so we should make sure we get it done,” DesArmo said.
Amy Campbell, associate director of campus recreation, said she feels there are more way to improve non-competitive fitness opportunities on campus, an aspect outlined in the guidelines.
“I always look for opportunities we can improve, and I think one area we could probably do better on is getting out of our building,” Campbell said. “One of my goals next year is to be present outside of our spaces. Maybe it’s going to some of the living centers, maybe it’s exploring some of the downtown options as that population continues to grow.”
The Partnership also contains an objective for schools to provide at least 40 diverse competitive sports, intramurals, or informal recreational opportunities each year. GVSU has 55 club sports alone open for all students to participate, with 15-20 intramurals offered each year as well.
“Getting out to audiences that are not really active is a big initiative of the agreement,” Campbell said. “Looking at some of these objectives, I very much think getting out of our current spaces and then offering programs and services for those that are not currently active is important.”
An example of already existing health-based program, Campbell said, would be the UFit Plan offered free to students.
“It’s essentially free personal training,” Campbell said. “We met with individuals for free, where you work with an exercise technician (and) set fitness based goals. We also talk about things like nutrition, stress management, health and wellbeing, sleeping, getting involved, being socially active, but all of it revolves around the physical activity component.”
Additional guidelines GVSU still must implement include providing an outdoor fitness area, offering one bicycle parking space per 15 individuals and offering a plant-based food option at every place that serves meat.