Non-smoking campus, fitness, food all a part of MSU’s plan
During MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon’s State of the University address last week, she announced her vision to promote health on MSU’s campus through her Bolder by Design long-term plan.
During an interview with the The State News, Simon said she hopes to make MSU one of the healthiest campuses in the nation by banning smoking, providing nutritional meals in the dining halls and increasing fitness options.
While Simon recently announced her support for these initiatives, organizations across campus have been working independently to address these issues in past years. According to the plan, the new proposal will help coordinate services and unite groups across campus that target and promote specific healthy behaviors.
Part of Simon’s initiative to improving university health is for MSU to become a smoke-free campus. According to Olin Student Health Center, about 17.4 percent of students have smoked in the past month. As of Jan. 2, at least 648 campuses across the nation are smoke-free, including 19 Michigan colleges and universities, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
The University of Michigan banned smoking on campus in July 2011, but students can smoke on sidewalks the city and university share, said Robert Winfield, chief health officer and university health service director for U-M. Winfield was instrumental in leading the university to become smoke-free.
ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate government, passed a bill last year to create a collaboration system with the university to research smoke-free options for MSU.
ASMSU President Evan Martinak said ASMSU he said he expects to talk to university officials soon.
Martinak said although the university is discussing a smoke-free campus, there is uncertainty about how that will work. Because MSU’s campus is so large, students would have to travel far to find areas to smoke.
“At (U-M), it’s pretty easy, they can just walk across the street,” Martinak said. “At MSU, if you are in Shaw Hall, you are a good 15 minutes from off campus.”
According to the 2011 Substance Use and Abuse on Campus: Results from the University of Michigan Student Life Survey, there was a significant decrease in the number of undergraduate smokers from 2009-11 when the ban on smoking was implemented — from almost 14 percent in 2009 to about 9 percent in 2011.
Upcoming legislation also could affect the number of smokers in the U.S.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” will allow health insurance companies to charge rates up to 50 percent higher for smokers buying individual policies. For many smokers, this could mean thousands in extra annual fees.
The act also states Medicaid programs will begin including medications to help users quit smoking in prescription drug packages.
The University Council presented suggestions to Simon’s Bolder by Design program on Jan. 22 regarding food on campus, including adding more sustainable food options to the menu, finding nutritional foods at local stores and stocking the dining halls with fresh foods.
In a previous interview, Simon said the plan would include providing healthier food options in the cafeterias for students.
Diane Fischer, a registered dietitian on the faculty of food science and human nutrition, graduated from MSU and continues to eat in the cafeterias on campus.
“It really is amazing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and things students have requested,” Fischer said.
She said MSU Culinary Services tries to provide many healthy, organic and local foods for students, but as with anything else, there are always ways to improve.
“Sometimes consumers resist a little, but as a registered dietitian, you walk this tightrope,” Fischer said. “It’s a step-by-step process.”
Richard McNeil, director of MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness Services and adjunct associate professor of kinesiology, said Bolder by Design is a positive outlook for the university, but he is unsure of how it will affect fitness on campus.
“It’s the first time in anyone’s memory that there has been a commitment to a healthy campus initiative,” McNeil said.
MSU promotes the Live On and Be Fit campaign to encourage students to utilize the residence hall fitness centers and the Neighborhood Health and Wellness Group Exercise Program.
Residence Education and Hospitality Service Assistant Director of Communications Ashley Chaney said MSU can work on providing fitness services that keep up with students’ needs.
“We understand that fitness is part of being a well-rounded student,” she said.
Kinesiology senior Maggie Bannigan, an intern with LifeRX, an exercise and fitness assessment program at MSU, said promoting a healthy community is her passion.
She said some students might feel fitness is important, while others might feel they don’t have the time, but MSU overall is a healthy campus.
“I feel like this community is more, much more apt to feel fit and be healthy compared to others,” Bannigan said.