"Implementing programs that can strengthen faculty and staff's beliefs about engaging in wellness and improve their ability to engage in healthy behaviors will impact what they actually do in terms of leading a healthy lifestyle," Bernadette Melnyk, Ohio State's chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, who spearheaded the survey, said
Results from both recent surveys also suggest that while many academic institutions have taken important steps to foster a more healthful work environment, some obstacles hinder broader faculty and staff engagement in wellness activities - including a lack of workplace flexibility and perceived low leader support.
In particular, respondents from the two surveys reported, on average, that it is "somewhat" easy to engage in health and wellness activities and indicated that colleges or units were "somewhat" supportive of employee participation in wellness events.
Staff and faculty also reported, on average, that they believe university leader engagement in promoting and role-modeling health and wellness fell between "somewhat" and "moderate" levels.
The survey of summit participants' institutions about their wellness efforts suggests that the obstacles identified at Ohio State are fairly typical in institutions across the U.S.
"Perceptions that faculty and staff have about the wellness culture and environment affect their lifestyle beliefs and behaviors, so those perceptions are extremely important," Melnyk, also associate vice president for health promotion, said.
"In the Ohio State survey and the summit survey, we had similar findings: How people perceive that their leaders support and role-model healthy behaviors was relatively low, so we need the leaders in our academic institutions to support health and wellness programs in their units and to role-model those behaviors," he said.
In all, 3,959 Ohio State staff and faculty responded to the survey, and almost two-thirds of those who reported their sex were women. Of those who identified their university roles, faculty represented 18.4 percent of respondents, and the highest percentage of responses, 30 percent, came from administrative staff. Almost 73 percent of respondents were based at the Columbus campus.
"Evidence from studies has shown that when people have higher levels of wellness, they are more happy, engaged and productive and have fewer chronic illnesses, which means they miss less work and cost less in terms of health care claims," Melnyk said.