Health, wellness next proposed center of excellence

The University is proposing that “Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan” be named its next center of excellence, attendees at the Dec. 5 board of trustees meeting heard.

If approved under the new University System of Ohio, the center would be BGSU’s second, following “excellence in the arts.” According to Gov. Ted Strickland’s 10-year Strategic Plan for Higher Education, centers of excellence should be multidisciplinary, of high enough quality to attract students and faculty, and contribute to the economic development of the state.

BGSU’s health and wellness programs comprise a “networked center of excellence without walls,” according to Dr. Linda Petrosino, dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

With more than 100 faculty members and nearly 5,000 students in 78 academic programs, research units and student activity groups, and $10.7 million in research grant awards and $900,000 in student support grants in the broad field of health and wellness, as well as more than 300 partnerships with health organizations and agencies in the community, BGSU has a strong, if not unified, commitment to the overall topic, Petrosino told the trustees.

By forming a center of excellence, we recognize the “strength, depth, breadth and tremendous impact of health and wellness across the lifespan programs at BGSU,” she said. And rather than a trendy development, she added, community partnerships “have been the very fabric of our health and wellness programs here for many years.”

The University’s distinctive approach centers not on the medical aspect of curing disease, like the University of Toledo and its medical college, but on the promotion of wellness and improved quality of life. A recent study showed that if $10 per Ohioan had been spent on health promotion every year for the past three years, it would have yielded a 6-to-1 return on investment by now, Petrosino said.

Creating a center of excellence would help build a better framework for organizing, synchronizing and enhancing existing activities. The center would also advance the University’s distinctive educational role, build on its nationally recognized research programs and focus renewed emphasis on community partnerships for disease prevention and healthy behaviors.

The center would encompass dual perspectives: human ecology, or the interaction of people with their natural, social and created environments, and lifespan development, or the growth and development of an individual from before birth through old age. From programs in environmental health to speech and hearing to marriage research, BGSU addresses both perspectives, Petrosino said.

And with career shifts predicted due to the changing economy, many older workers are expected to return to school, she added. “Since health and wellness will become increasingly important, this presents an opportunity for BGSU.”

BGSU’s deans began work on developing centers of excellence in fall 2007, and last March a committee was formed, chaired by Dr. Milt Hakel, Ohio Eminent Scholar in psychology, that has been concentrating on identifying those centers.

December 8, 2008