New university initiative encourages campus-wide health

Chelsey Thomas, a junior fashion merchandising major, frequently runs on campus to maintain her healhty lifestyle. Running every day is an important aspect to getting into shape and keeping up one's daily physical activity. | Photo by Meredith Bennett
Chelsey Thomas, a junior fashion merchandising major, frequently runs on campus to maintain her healhty lifestyle. Running every day is an important aspect to getting into shape and keeping up one’s daily physical activity. | Photo by Meredith Bennett

The Health is Golden initiative began March 2014 after the university received a $250,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi. 

As its tagline states, the initiative is meant to create a culture of wellness across the campus and encourage a healthier lifestyle. In March, Health is Golden first began to work with faculty and staff members.  One program it launched was the Healthy 100.  One hundred qualified faculty and staff members were able to have individual counseling with the university’s registered dietitian Lisa Malone, have free access to the Payne Center for a year and have free sessions with a personal trainer.

Jodi Ryder is the health education and promotion director for Student Health Services at Southern Miss.  She is also one of the leaders in the Health is Golden campaign. Ryder said in the first months of the Healthy 100, faculty and staff had already begun to see major improvements in weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Because of its effect on faculty and staff, the Healthy 100 will be one of many programs and healthy outlets accessible to qualified students this fall.  Freshmen students will be the first targeted by this program. Screenings will begin to take place in the university 101 classes this fall.

For these students, participating in Health is Golden will earn them one credit hour and the class will be taught by Lisa Malone, Health is Golden dietitian.

“I provide nutrition counseling for all participants that qualify for the grant program,” Malone said. “With this grant I provide individualized eating plans to improve the health parameter(s) that qualified the participant.”

Health is Golden will also continue its partnership with Eagle Dining as another way to promote healthy eating on campus.  The Fresh Food Company will continue to post the calorie count and nutritional value of the food they serve.  Students can now see how much they are truly taking in. 

Eagle Dining has also created an application (app) for those students with access to a smartphone.  And now, students who have a MyFitness Pal account can access the nutritional value and calorie count of the food made by Aramark, the provider for Eagle Dining.  Throughout the upcoming year,  Health is Golden staff will be leading educational series, cooking demonstrations and other programs to encourage healthy living on campus.

In 2013, students could spot posters across campus that spotlighted individuals who maintained healthy lifestyles while also being involved members of the Southern Miss and Hattiesburg communities.  These health champions serve as role models to students to exhibit that health is all about balance.

“We wanted to target the average person,” Ryder said.Beginning in September, Health is Golden will release two to three minute videos featuring some of their health champions.  These videos will vary from showing students what machines in the Payne Center strengthen cardiovascular health to showing which machines are used for toning and muscle strength conditioning, to showing students how to make healthy choices when grocery shopping.

This initiative wants to target organizations across campus so as to reach its largest audience.

Another aspect of Health is Golden is the move toward making Southern Miss a smoke-free campus.  The university offers outlets for students, faculty and staff who smoke and want to quit.  The staff under this program will refer those members of the Southern Miss community to those outlets.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the campus community should expect to see Health is Golden marketing its goals and initiatives to students, faculty and staff. Its goal is to change Southern Miss for the better and sustain a healthy community for years to come.

For more information regarding Health is Golden visit