Building Wellness - Community Wide
CPR has been working with a few wellness focused organizations in Champaign-Urbana to examine the use and practicality of a community system for identifying and utilizing active lifestyle resources.
What does wellness mean?
Definition of wellness in English : noun
The state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal:
- measures of a patient’s progress toward wellness
- healthcare focused on wellness, not sickness
We've had to take into careful consideration what wellness means to a particular community. As we work to design a successful community based wellness initiative, especially in the context of Champaign-Urbana Illinois, we want to examine what the community already does and how that may inform what they would see as value-added.
Champaign-Urbana is made up of the core-communities of Champaign and Urbana, with a population 81,000+/- and 41,000+/- respectively as of the 2010 census. The two communities are home of the University of Illinois, which itself boasts a student body comprised of more than 44,000 students enrolled as of 2016.
The Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study performs multiple analyses of the entire urbanized population, and their Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) examines a few specific attributes of active transportation. The LRTP approved in 2014 found a core daily commuter bicycle population of 5.3% for Urbana and 2.8% for Champaign, which are both above the national average of 2%. With a small dense urban area it is relatively easy to change your mode of transportation to walking, cycling, or public transit and is only constrained by schedules, ease of use, and infrastructure.
While there are many people already commuting without a personal vehicle, this number is not nearly as high as it could be. When we started to ask people about their lifestyle, work life, and access to active living resources we found that a large proportion of respondents would be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles if it was easier to mesh active transportation with their work life. A few employers offer bike parking, showering/locker facilities, and incentives to walk or bike to work; these employers are in reality few and far between.
Existing Wellness programs
Of particular note, is the Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD), which has created a program for employees to reward them for leading an active lifestyle. While programs like these aren't anything new, this particular program seems to be well utilized by a cross-section of employees and also rewards employees for 'beating' their personal bests rather than ranking them against one another. Each employee that participates wears an activity belt, which they can wear throughout the entire day or for specific exercise routines available to them via CUMTD's in-facility gym. The monitor measures the employee's heart rate, and rewards points for actively maintaining or working up heart rate evenly through exercise.
While many employees seemed to enjoy this program there is a downside to the measurement device; employee's are rewarded only for strenuous activity that registers a change in heart-rate on the device. Therefore, activity like yoga, meditation, and walking at a consistent pace are not redeemable for rewards, which leaves out a fairly large subset of participants when these activities do not increase heart rate. These particular activities reduce stress, allow for (sometimes) low impact activity, and have demonstrated health benefits but lack a measured impact by this particular technology.
Creating wellness programs for the community
Many entities already provide low-impact exercise opportunities that bring about cost-free ways to lead an active lifestyle in and outside of work. The various cycling organizations (Champaign County Bikes, Prairie Cycle Club, Illini Cycling, The Bike Project) and businesses (Champaign Cycle, Durst Cycle, Neutral Cycle) provide open-to-the-public casual and medium-intensity rides. Common Ground Food Cooperative offers its patrons the opportunity to enter their name for a monthly drawing, with an additional chance being added to the drawing each time a patron utilizes active transportation (walk, bike, public transit) to visit the store.
Building upon these existing community resources is key in the development of successful community-wide wellness program, and allows methods people are readily familiar with to expand. There is one particular facet of the existing programs we've found to be instrumental to successful promotion; ease-of-use. Existing programs are relatively simple, requiring little long term commitment and provide regular rewards that the participants are informed about. Monthly or weekly promotions like the drawing from Common Ground are the most successful, require little forethought on behalf of the customer, and occur consistently enough to keep consumers engaged.
If a local businesses are interested in creating and applying a healthy lifestyle promotion, we encourage them to look at what health conscious organizations in Champaign-Urbana are already employing. Keep the program simple; write-ins and electronic tallies are simple to collect info and often integrate with existing point-of-sale hardware. Punch cards offer an easy way for customers to watch their reward attainment but these cards are often lost or forgotten, and if customers aren't reminded to collect the reward the program has little impact on the businesses healthy image.
Wellness Programs in Champaign-Urbana
*If you have a recommendation of an existing wellness program or would like to add your own program to this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.