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Drake named healthiest university in Iowa

Academy for a Healthy Iowa honored Drake for campus wellness initiatives

This fall, Drake University was awarded the “Healthy Iowa” designation by the Academy for a Healthy Iowa. The award celebrates the wellness initiatives of schools, organizations and individuals in the state.

Jana Peterson, Drake University wellness director, points to a combination of senior-level administration support and campus community participation in describing what led Drake to win the award.

“The inclusion of creating a culture of wellness as part of the strategic plan was instrumental in receiving this title,” Peterson says. “Drake wellness also works with a community that participates. Without engagement from the campus community, this recognition would not be possible.”

Exciting changes have bolstered Drake’s culture of wellness over the past several years. New policies, such as community service leave for employees, aim to improve the balance between work and life. New positions, such as the coordinator of student wellness education and the coordinator for sexual violence response and healthy relationship promotion, aid the student experience. Free programming —including one-on-one fitness testing, exercise program design consultations, a wellness lunch series and group exercise classes — also contributes to the success of Drake’s efforts to foster healthy lifestyles.

These programs have proven popular; 89 percent of Drake employees participate in at least one wellness program offering each year.

Peterson says that the recognition will serve as a platform for Drake to continue offering and evolving wellness programs for the campus community.

The Academy for a Healthy Iowa is a collaboration between the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nutrition and the Wellness Council of Iowa. Award winners are selected based on providing access to wellness programming, financial commitment, measurability and sustainability. Winners retain the “Healthy Iowa” designation for three years at which point they must reapply.

Drake University was recognized at the Healthy Iowa Awards held on October 20 at the Hy-Vee Conference Center in West Des Moines. Eleven Iowa businesses were designated Wellness Council of America “Well Workplaces,” and 13 communities, schools and leaders were recognized.

Peterson anticipates integrating ideas from the Healthy Iowa Conference into future wellness initiatives. Each academic year, Drake Wellness offers a new program designed by its staff.

“I am looking forward to creating an implementing programming for the Drake campus based on new research and ideas presented at the conference,” she says.