UCLA has launched an integrated, campus-wide effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices and develop best practices that may help other communities seeking to do the same.
The UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, envisioned and supported by philanthropists Jane and Terry Semel, prioritizes the health and wellness of students, staff and faculty.
The multi-pronged program is rooted in UCLA's long-term commitment to fostering a culture of mental and physical health and wellness. The Healthy Campus Initiative will support the enhancement and expansion of current health and wellness efforts; offer new and interesting approaches to exercise, mental health and eating well; encourage the creation of new projects, programs and policies; foster synergies and coordination among the myriad groups and programs that support health and wellness at UCLA; and provide students, staff and faculty with fun and exciting ways to make it easy to be healthy and fit.
"Reducing preventable diseases has been a vision of mine for a very long time," said Jane Semel. "This initiative is an important step forward."
"This initiative is about helping members of the campus community and beyond make informed choices," Chancellor Gene Block said. "Whether it's about diet, exercise, transportation or sustainability, our goal is to leverage our unique strengths in health sciences and as a leading research university to encourage healthier outcomes for individuals and for society as a whole."   
Working groups, led by campus experts in their respective fields, have been established to bolster the program in key areas of emphasis. Among them are: 
  • Nutrition and diet, led by Dr. Wendy Slusser, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Fielding School of Public Health and director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.
  • Physical activity, exercise and sleep, led by Dr. Antronette Yancey, a professor of health policy and management at the Fielding School of Public Health and co-director of the school's UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, and Michael Deluca, executive director of recreation and campus life.
  • Mental and emotional health, led by Robert Bilder, the Tennenbaum Family Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine and chief of medical psychology–neuropsychology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
  • Community and environment, led by Dr. Richard Jackson, professor and chair of environmental health sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health.
The work of these groups has resulted in plans for healthier eating options; improved walkability, bikeability and transit use on and around campus; meetings that incorporate physical activity; upgrades and enhancements to stairways; the expansion of community gardens and urban farming on campus; and the creation of web-based mobile applications to track fitness progress, among other things.
UCLA Associate Vice Provost Michael Goldstein, a professor at the Fielding School of Public Health who serves as chair of the Healthy Campus steering committee, said the initiative is a community-wide approach to change.
"We're working together to create a social movement around health," he said. "In much the same way that sustainability and diversity are woven into the fabric of UCLA, there is real interest and desire on the part of campus leadership and the broader campus community to make healthy living part of our campus culture too."
As one part of the initiative, 14 student groups have each been awarded $1,500 to help make UCLA a healthier place to live, work, study and play.
Funded student projects are expected to roll out this winter and spring. Among them are a plan by the student group Ecology, Economy, Equity to create a container vegetable and herb garden and run gardening and nutrition workshops at the Young Research Library, and "Lunch Beat UCLA," an opportunity created by the Anthropology Graduate Student Association that encourages students, staff and faculty to get together for a "time out" from school and work to dance, eat lunch and foster togetherness.
Additional projects include "What's Cooking?", a series of workshops from the Student Food Collective at UCLA that will cover topics like healthy eating, food justice and farm workers rights, fair trade, and affordable cooking; the "Love Your Body" campaign, a weeklong event designed by the UCLA USAC Eating and Activities Task Force to educate and provide students with resources to live a healthy life, promote positive body image and encourage environmental consciousness; and health and wellness programs geared to underrepresented groups, among others.
"A program like the Healthy Campus Initiative is important at UCLA because it provides accessible, fun workshops and programs to facilitate healthy living to UCLA community members," said Jamie Schenk, a fourth-year human biology and society major and co-founder and outreach director for the Student Food Collective at UCLA. "Our workshop series will positively contribute to the Healthy Campus Initiative because it will give students tools to lead healthier lifestyles through diet, as well as physical and mental well-being. Good, healthy food serves as the foundation for good health and happiness, which is what healthy living is all about. It is exciting to see that UCLA is taking a great step in making health and wellness a top priority through supporting these student initiatives."
Representatives from each of the student groups will be on hand Monday, Jan. 28, for the Healthy Campus Launch Fair, which takes place in Collins Court at the John Wooden Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fair's featured event — remarks from Chancellor Block and a hula-hoop workout and giveaway for the first 200 participants — begins at noon. The fair will also include interactive demonstrations and information on the wide range of programs and opportunities offered by UCLA Recreation. Visitors will be eligible for a variety of prize drawings and giveaways. Admission is free, and the event is open to the entire campus.
The Jan. 28 kick-off also marks the first day of free access to the Wooden Center for students, faculty and staff. Complimentary admission is being offered through Feb. 1 to those who present a valid Bruin Card.
In addition to the program's kick-off, the Healthy Campus Initiative has partnered with a variety of campus groups to offer a host of events and opportunities over the next several months. Each provides an opportunity for the campus community to get involved.
From Feb. 11 to 14, the campus community is encouraged to burn calories, build stamina and spend time with their friends and colleagues during "I ♥ Walking," a series of walks through campus and Westwood Village. To mark Earth Day on April 22, the UCLA community is invited to an Earth Day fair and celebration of the university's new status as a tobacco-free campus — a University of California first. This will be followed by the popular annual Bike to Campus Week in May.
The Healthy Campus Initiative website is in development and is expected to be completed in April. For more information about the initiative, visit the program's Facebook page.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.