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Healthy University key to success

Friday 16 October 2015 1:56pm

HUAG-group-image
Members of the University’s new Healthy University Advisory Group. Back row from left: Director of Student Services Karyn Thompson, Director of Student Health Services Kim Ma’ia’i, University Chaplain Greg Hughson, Divisional HR Manger Health Sciences Simone McNichol, Manager of International Student Services Jason Cushen and Manager of Recreation Services Dan Porter. Middle row from left: Administrator Monica Vonesch, Christina Watson-Mills of Toroa College, Health and Safety and Compliance Manager Andrea McMillan and Associate Professor Louise Signal of Public Health on the Wellington campus. Front: Group Convener Dr John Adams. Absent: Student Representative Taotao Li and Director of the Office of Maori Development Tuari Potiki. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The health and wellbeing of Otago staff and students and how the University can best support this is the focus of a new Healthy University Advisory Group, which met for the first time yesterday.

The Group’s convener, Dr John Adams, says it is increasingly recognised that the state of an individual’s health is connected to the social context and environment in which they live and work.

“Tertiary institutions have a particularly important role in creating settings for their students and staff that promote health and provide opportunities for strong physical and emotional development, and the growth of resilience.”

"Our aim is to help provide an environment that maximises opportunities for students and staff to have a sense of belonging to an organisation that supports health and wellbeing."

The University already has multiple innovative initiatives in place that impact on and improve the University environment, including a ‘Healthy Campus’ website launched earlier this year.

“There is much that this University is already doing that supports the mental and physical health of our staff and students,” Dr Adams says. “The Healthy University Advisory Group will help us discover and coordinate these initiatives, assist us in plotting a course for the future and oversee the development and implementation of new projects.”

Dr Adams says healthy university initiatives have a strong international base. A network supporting Healthy university settings has been in place in the United Kingdom since 2006. A 2015 international conference at Okanagan in Canada drafted a ‘Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges’, which updated a version established at Edmonton in 2005.

Otago’s new Advisory group has a diverse membership, covering many sectors of the University with an interest in health, including Director of Student Health Services Dr Kim Ma’ia’i, Head of Health and Safety Compliance Andrea McMillan, Director of the Office of Maori Development Tuari Potiki, Chaplain Greg Hughson and Manager of Recreation Services Dan Porter.

“Our aim is to help provide an environment that maximises opportunities for students and staff to have a sense of belonging to an organisation that supports health and wellbeing,” Dr Adams says.

“A strong social identity, social support and resilience are associated with better academic performance. A healthy university setting therefore contributes to outcomes for the university and provides graduates and staff with experiences and tools that continue to be available to them in their lives.”