Spelman’s Wellness Revolution

Your Take: Health literacy for all trumps an athletics program for a few, the school's president says.

Spelman volleyball (Spelman Athletics)

Consider the physical activities that most adult career women continue beyond college: tennis, golf and swimming; walking and running 5Ks and 10Ks; and fitness classes like Zumba, Pilates and yoga. The intent of our wellness program is to transition our students from high school sports to lifelong fitness. Just as we develop the habits of the mind — developing critical-thinking skills that will be used for a lifetime — we want to develop habits of the body that will support healthy living for a lifetime.

We are taking this opportunity seriously, through the development of a creative wellness program. Students are already participating in activities like aqua aerobics, Zumba, fitness walking and yoga, to name just a few. There is a chapter of Black Girls Run meeting weekly on our campus, and we are embarking on an effort to create a state-of-the-art health-and-wellness program that is incorporated into our mandatory physical education curriculum so that it will touch every student.

One barrier to progress on our campus is our facilities. Our physical education building, Read Hall, built in 1950 when our student population was just 500 students, no longer meets the needs of a campus of 2,100 students. We are raising funds to renovate and expand Read Hall, a $13 million project, to house a state-of-the-art fitness-education program that will benefit all of our students, not only improving their health outcomes but also preparing them to be wellness champions in communities beyond our gates.

Fortunately, our students don’t have to wait for that Read Hall expansion to start improving their health. New wellness activities are already under way and will be sustained while the building is under construction.

This new direction at Spelman offers an effective and affordable model of health-and-wellness education that can be a model for all of our colleges and universities. Just as our founders forged a new educational path for black women, today we are forging a new wellness path, one that will lead the way to better health for this generation of students and for those whose lives they will touch. The wellness revolution is one that we can all participate in, and one that we desperately need.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., is president of Spelman College in Atlanta.

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