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Health & Wellness

Help When Needed: Promoting Wellness

PERD, Sargent Choice Nutrition and Occupational Health Centers: services for faculty, staff


This is part three in a series about Boston University services available to faculty and staff to help with work-related and personal issues.

Trying to balance work/life demands can be challenging. Often something has to give. And too often that something is you: the run you’d hoped to take at lunch gets bumped by a last-minute meeting; your New Year’s resolution to eat better or join a gym is sidetracked by the demands of work or child care.

Fortunately, there is a range of services—many free—available to faculty and staff on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus to help promote and maintain physical wellness. Whether it’s a free chair massage (yes, employees are eligible for one each semester), seminars to help you start your own exercise regimen, or nutrition counseling to help you lose weight, you’ll find it at BU.

Help to stay (or get) fit: Physical Education, Recreation & Dance

The Department of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (PERD), which oversees BU’s state-of-the-art Fitness & Recreation Center (FitRec), offers an array of resources and programs for BU employees and their families, such as free workshops throughout the academic year on both campuses. Topics range from eye health and yoga basics to rock climbing for beginners, resilience and mindfulness, tips for maintaining a healthy lower back, and even a 15-minute workout you can do at your desk. Taught by faculty and staff from across the University, the workshops are typically offered at noon or late in the afternoon. Find more information here.

“Our goal is to offer something for everyone,” says Tim Moore, PERD executive director. “First, we try to encourage employees to be active players in their own holistic well-being and to take advantage of the many services they have right on campus. Our second goal is to get people moving. We know that an employee’s overall health is better, they are more productive, they miss less work, and are happier when they get regular physical activity. Moving makes you feel good, and that’s what we want for BU employees.”

PERD also offers many low-cost noncredit classes to faculty, staff, and their families (and to students and alumni) during fall, spring, and summer semesters. Recreation classes run from one to 12 sessions, cost between $85 and $200, and include aquatics (for casual as well as competitive swimmers), dance classes (ballet, jazz, salsa, merengue, ballroom, and more), pilates, rock climbing, crew, court sports, and sailing.

PERD’s series of free workshops for employees, one a beginning rock climbing class, are held throughout the year. Photo by Janice Checchio

FitRec employee Abagail Petersen (CAS’18) belays Questrom School of Business database administrator Bob Conroy at the center’s climbing wall. Photo by Janice Checchio

PERD also provides a comprehensive family recreation program open to children of employees (as well as of alumni). There’s a movement program, swimming lessons beginning at age six months, youth competitive diving, dance classes, and rock climbing classes geared for ages 4 to 17. One of the most popular offerings is parent-child climbing lessons, where parents help children scale FitRec’s 30-foot climbing wall. Learn more about FitRec’s adult and children’s recreation classes here.

For many employees, finding the time to exercise can be difficult. But FitRec’s convenient location and flexible hours (during the school year, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends) make it easy to take advantage of the center’s pool, squash and racquetball courts, track and tennis facilities, and gym. Faculty and staff monthly membership is $49.95, a six-month plan saves 20 percent discount, and a 12-month plan saves 25 percent.

Help with healthy eating: Sargent Choice Nutrition Center

Exercise and movement are only part of the wellness equation. Maintaining balanced nutrition is another. The Sargent Choice Nutrition Center (SCNC) can help employees, students, and the general public “achieve realistic health goals in keeping with their lifestyle demands and preferences.”

Staffed by licensed registered dietitian nutritionists, the center provides free nutrition presentations, healthy cooking classes, interactive nutrition workshops, and upon request, customized nutrition seminars.

Stacey Zawacki (SAR’98, SPH’13) (far left), director of Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, and center members at a weekly staff meeting

Stacey Zawacki (SAR’98, SPH’13) (far left, facing camera), director of Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, and center members at a weekly staff meeting. Photo by Cydney Scott

Individual nutrition counseling sessions help employees gain knowledge, skills, and strategies to meet their nutrition goals. The center’s unique evidence-based Risk Factor Management Program is designed for employees with cardiac risk factors, as well as those with food allergies/intolerance, celiac disease, and digestive or eating disorders. The program, with up to four individual counseling sessions, group support, and a pedometer to encourage increased daily activity, costs just $50 for BU employees.

“It’s a unique program based on the scientific evidence about nutrition and activity for safe and effective weight loss,” says SCNC director Stacey Zawacki (SAR’98, SPH’13), a Sargent College clinical assistant professor. People learn skills and strategies for meal planning, dining out, food shopping, and recipe modification. Costs vary depending on insurance copays: the nutritionists are credentialed with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Aetna, Tufts Health Plan, and United Healthcare.

Additional resources on the center’s website: a Thoughtful Eating Toolkit, with information about how to make smart decisions about what, when, and how to eat; information about Sargent Choice healthy food options on campus; a blog about popular nutrition topics; and tasty, healthy recipes.

Find more information about all the SCNC resources available on and off campus here, or call 617-353-2721.

Help with work-related illnesses and injuries: Occupational Health Center

The Occupational Health Center (BUOHC) works to prevent and manage occupational and environmental injuries, illnesses, and disabilities and to promote employees’ health and productivity. It provides on-the-job injury care—first aid, follow-up care, and coordination of health care and referrals to specialists—coordination of postinjury return to work, free flu vaccinations, medical screening, and on-site training programs.

The center also offers both preemployment physical exam screening and ongoing medical surveillance programs for employees whose jobs are physically demanding and require proof of fitness for duty, as well as for those whose jobs may require them to work with chemicals and biohazardous materials.

“We strive to be a resource to employees on everything from safe work practices to reinforcing Environmental Health & Safety and individual department initiatives,” says Virginia Gutierrez, BUOHC manager. “When an employee comes to us, we seek to develop a partnership with them to ensure we understand and support their health requirements and goals. Our clinicians can help an employee address personal health information, and they will maintain confidentiality.”

Virginia Gutierrez, manager of the Occupational Health Center, with center medical director Alan Rodgers in medical office

Virginia Gutierrez, manager of the Occupational Health Center, with center medical director Alan Rodgers. Photo by Cydney Scott

Help that’s coordinated campus-wide: BU Be Well

PERD director Moore is chairing a new campus-wide wellness initiative, BU Be Well, in conjunction with Human Resources, the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office, and other BU wellness providers. The goal is to promote a culture of wellness, increase participation in wellness program offerings, and tailor offerings to employee interest.

“What we’re creating is a concerted, collaborative, and coordinated effort to bring together information, programs, and services to make wellness more accessible,” says Moore.

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