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Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, Ohio State chief wellness officer, vice president for health promotion and College of Nursing dean, addresses the audience at Buckeye Summit.

Jo McCulty

Buckeye Summit promotes healthy communities

Ohio State's chief wellness officer explains how all of us can create positive change.

In April, members of the Ohio State community and thought leaders on health and wellness came together for Buckeye Summit, a biennial gathering that seeks to make a positive impact on a pressing issue. This year’s challenge: How can we create healthy communities?

The current state of health in the United States includes some grim statistics:

  • While 80 percent of chronic disease is preventable, one in every two Americans has a chronic disease, and one in four has multiple chronic conditions.
  • Obesity and excess weight will soon surpass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our country. Forty-two percent of Americans are predicted to be obese by 2030, and one in three is expected to have diabetes by 2050.
  • Sadly, for the first time in our nation’s history, our children are now predicted to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

Ohio's population health ranks near the bottom nationally at 43rd, with high rates of infant mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, adult smoking, food insecurity and drug overdose deaths. We also spend more on health care than most other states.

Clearly, it’s time to leverage the strength of Buckeye Nation to improve the health and well-being of communities throughout Ohio. We owe it to ourselves and to our children.

Thankfully, there is a lot of hope and plenty we can do. Ohio State has become a national leader in health and wellness by building a culture that makes healthful choices easy — and the results are showing.

Evidence indicates successful health care promotion programs offer health-care education focused on lifestyle behavior changes, supportive social and physical environments, a dedicated integration of the health promotion into the organization, links to other programs such as employee assistance, and screenings followed by counseling, health coaching and education.

Dr. Richard Carmona

PROGRAM FACILITATOR – Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS – 17th U.S. Surgeon General, Chief of Health Innovations,Canyon Ranch, Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona, Distinguished Professor, The Ohio State University

Jo McCulty

Ohio State delivers all of these in multiple forms to students, faculty and staff. Through our network of programs and leaders who walk the talk, we have elevated health and wellness in our community. As a result, we have seen improvements in health outcomes, including a 7 percent improvement in cardiovascular health over the past four years. And while most similar institutions report an increase of more than 4.3 percent per year in health-care spending for employees, Ohio State’s outlay on employee health care declined 1.4 percent last year.

At Buckeye Summit, we discussed other tactics to promote health and wellness across Ohio and the world. Our keynote speaker, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, urged us to consider how best to disseminate complex scientific information. We have a very diverse nation, and it’s important that we understand how to individualize interventions to diverse populations. With so much health information out there, we have to be sure we are getting the right information to the people who need it and in a format they can understand.

Even if you’re not a health care provider, you can help with this challenge. It must start with each of us: Commit to just one healthy lifestyle behavior change today to drastically reduce your risk of chronic disease. For instance, you might commit to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity five days per week, eat five fruits and vegetables per day, quit smoking or, if you do drink alcohol, limit your consumption to one drink a day for women and two for men. Add daily stress reduction and seven hours of sleep per night for even better results.

To broaden your impact, consider donating your time and talent to distributing health and wellness information. Be a change leader in your family, among your friends and in your community. Helping to facilitate optimal well-being in your community can be as simple as volunteering to teach children how to pack healthy lunches or as complex as designing a database to house and share health care information.

As President Michael V. Drake reminded us at Buckeye Summit, each of us can do something to advance the well-being of all of us. “One voice yelling in the ’Shoe can’t be heard,” he said. “But put everyone together yelling, and we make a tremendous roar.”

About the author

About the author

Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk

Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk is the university’s chief wellness officer, vice president for health promotion and College of Nursing dean.