Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Health and Wellness Center at AUB embodies AUB's concern for the holistic wellbeing of its students, staff, and the wider community. What was initially conceived as a program to provide support for employees' physically healthy lifestyles has become a full-fledged integrative health center that cares for the wellbeing of the body and mind of anyone who walks through its doors.
This is the first university wellness program in Lebanon and the region and it aims to create a healthier study and work environment at AUB and a healthier community by providing health education, facilities, programs, and services to promote the different dimensions of health. These include: disease risk assessment; smoking cessation; fitness and physical activity; ergonomics, promoting healthy posture and measures at the office to protect the back, joints, and muscles; nutrition; and stress management.
“The idea is of reaching out beyond university walls and offering services and training beyond lifestyle medicine (nutrition, exercise, and healthy habits) through integrative health services like mindfulness and meditation classes, life coaching, yoga, Tai Chi, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy," explained Dr. Ghassan Hamadeh, chair of the Department of Family Medicine.
The program started in 2006 as an initiative associated with what became the Charles Hostler Student Center. After an interruption due to the war that broke out in July of that year when the same team engaged in supporting the displaced, the program took off to primarily offer AUB employees body and mind wellness activities and advice. The focus at the time was on areas such as lifestyle; ergonomics; and smoking cessation support.
Inspired by AUBMC's 2020 vision to bring clinical care to a new level of excellence, the Health and Wellness Center was officially founded in 2015. Today, it caters to students, employees, and their dependents, and reaches out to the community who are welcome to use the services. It collaborates with various faculties and departments throughout the university, including the Office of Student Affairs, University Sports, and a committee of faculty and department representatives that work to offer AUB employees, students, and the community at large, life-enhancing solutions.
Health themes are set through a variety of activities run by a team that expanded from two active employees from the department of family medicine to a multidisciplinary team of highly accomplished and specialized faculty: family medicine physicians, nurses, a dietitian, acupuncture specialists, a certified yoga teacher, a certified life coach, stress management and personal growth specialist, a Tai Chi specialist, a hypnotherapist, a meditation specialist, a massage therapist, a community health nurse, and a coordinator. The leadership of the team is held by the Family Medicine Department, keeping the center's vision aligned with the holistic evidence-based approach of health care delivery.
The goals of the program are health maintenance, including the prevention and early detection of disease; promotion of health, modifying unhealthy life styles through education, support, and incentive measures; support of a better enforced safety and environmental protection program (Prevention of carcinogens contamination such as asbestos, secondary tobacco smoke, other chemicals or germs from reaching people through air, water, or food, and prevention of work related injuries or illnesses); morale improvement; which also lead to better attendance, enhanced productivity, and a savings in medical costs.
A main arm of the center on campus is the AUB Wellness Program which provides regular health awareness activities and services. Another arm is Integrative Health Services which provides yoga, life coaching, meditation, hypnotherapy, Tai Chi, acupuncture, and mindfulness sessions; with chiropractic services planned for implementation soon. Sessions are open to all and provided for groups as well as individuals.
Clinical services are also offered by the center, offering general and executive health checkups, smoking cessation support, and nutrition care.
Another main service offered by the center is consultancy to corporations; private and public schools; ministry of social affairs services centers across Lebanon; and NGOs. It offers wellness service packages such as stress management, nutrition, ergonomics, flu season care, and smoking cessation. Along with monthly awareness activities, tailored activities are offered to specific departments based on assessments performed by the wellness team. This arm is working on providing executive corporate trainings on topics such as leadership, life skills, communication, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.
As the center continuously aims to expand in scope and field, beyond AUB, an academic and research arm is currently under development, aiming at providing educational rotations, an integrative health degree, an integrative health research working group, and a wellness academy that gives certified courses on mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and training of trainers.
The center has planned and executed wide-ranging wellness services and events for AUB's Global Health institute; Naef. K. Basile Cancer Institute; Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences; University Sports; Champ's Fund; University for seniors; Human Resources Department; Department of Psychiatry; Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management; the Landscape Architecture department; and the Nature Conservation Center with which the center organized the first regional integrative health conference. The team has also conducted various workshops for family physicians of the World Organization of Family Doctors – East Mediterranean Region.
Within a few years, the wellness initiative has turned into a sustained excellence center, reaching hundreds per year through integrative medicine services. Already a vast all-campus collaboration, this program is only growing in scope and expanding in reach.