Signs encouraging students to “B-Healthy” can be found at almost every corner of campus. From advertising the number of steps from Smith Hall of Hinman College to the Marketplace in the University Union or simply indicating where to find a water fountain, the signs are designed to help students make healthy choices.
The signs are part of the Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI), a program Binghamton University began roughly four years ago and completed this past week.
The HCI is one of many initiatives offered by Partnership for a Healthier America, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood obesity by working with the private sector. Its initiatives are designed to work in conjunction with former first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” public health campaign. BU started working with Partnership for a Healthier America to complete the HCI back in 2014, joining over 50 other colleges in the initiative, including George Mason University, Florida State University and George Washington University.
Colleges participating are required to complete 23 of a possible 41 guidelines to complete the program. BU’s completed guidelines include offering a bike share program, providing at least 20 different opportunities for physical recreation every academic year and developing wellness meals that run on a 28-day cycle.
Cindy Cowden, the senior associate director of facilities and internal operations for Campus Recreation, said the main reason the University chose to adopt this initiative came from a recognition that healthier students are better students.
“Students with a positive, flourishing health status have a greater ability and readiness to learn and be fully engaged in the educational experience inside and outside the classroom,” Cowden said.
Erin Mahoney, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and environmental studies, is a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise, which is a nonprofit exercise professional and health coach certification organization. Mahoney said having healthy options on campus is integral to making the students she works with succeed.
“It is so important for my clients to be able to make healthy choices outside of our training sessions,” Mahoney said. “Without healthy options, anything we accomplish during training won’t make much of a difference.”
Mahoney stressed, however, that students need the ability to be healthy regardless of whether they have a gym membership or not.
“With all the stress college imposes on students, it’s so important to both encourage and facilitate easier access to making healthier life choices,” Mahoney said.
The HCI certification itself is a guarantee that BU is a college campus that offers numerous opportunities for physical recreation and healthy eating. However, Cowden said Partnership for a Healthier America has allowed BU to work with those outside the realm of Vestal to further pursue their commitment to a healthy campus.
“By joining [Partnership for a Healthier America], we opened up the opportunity to interact with counterparts from other colleges and universities to collaborate, problem-solve and share best practices,” Cowden said.
Kayla Torres, an intern at BU’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, said the changes from the initiatives are noticeable but may not be used as extensively as the University would hope.
“I’m an intern so I know a majority of the health initiates that are provided by the University, but I normally don’t see students utilizing them,” Torres said. “I think it doesn’t hurt to keep pursuing the goal, but we need to find ways to make it more effective.”
Regardless of perception, Cowden said that the University will be continuing to work with Partnership for a Healthier America to create a healthier college environment both for the benefits it offers students and the potential skills it imparts.
“Binghamton University has made a commitment to student health and wellness,” Cowden said. “It is both an institutional priority and a value-added component of the Binghamton experience. Regardless of a student’s academic major or professional plans, we want to help them create healthier habits for the rest of their lives.”