Improving overall health and losing weight are often common New Years resolutions, but West VirginiaUniversity wants to encourage students and employees to take wellness and nutrition seriously all year long.

After attending a recent off-campus lecture on diseases of affluence, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said he was struck by the message and thought students and employees could benefit through the establishment of a wellness initiative on campus.

“Affluence in our society has led to a host of health problems that we are all coping with and paying for,”Hardesty said.”Obesity and poor eating leads to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. At WVU , we want to deploy assets to effectively reduce these problems.”

Ken Gray, vice president for Student Affairs, is leading the Universitys wellness efforts.

“In addition to improving overall health and lowering health care costs,”Gray said,”wellness and good nutrition are cornerstones to academic achievement, improved employee performance and job satisfaction, and a healthy lifestyle.”

Calling on WVU experts from various departments, a University-wide Wellness Task Force has been established. The group met for the first time March 10 and came up with the following recommendations:

  • Provide healthier choices at dining halls and WVU -run restaurant menus

  • Provide wellness and nutrition for first-year students at New Student Orientation and at Resident Faculty Leader programs

  • Offer wellness and nutrition courses through Academic Affairs

  • Establish wellness and nutrition programs for employees

  • Improve communication about new and existing wellness efforts

“I am offering to lift up this issue and make it an important one to the university and to the state,”Hardesty said.”We need to try to get at the front end of this and prevent diseases early.”

West Virginia is ranked among the top states facing obesity and other related health issues such as heart disease. In fact, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd recently helped to establish a new Center for Obesity at WVU , and the School of Physical Education has a childhood fitness program that focuses on and encourages physical activity, good nutrition and safety in preschool children.

WVU s StudentRecreationCenter and StansburyHallFitnessCenter also cater to healthy lifestyles.

The new Wellness Task Force reinforces and builds on many programs already in place, Gray added.