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UCI Among Inaugural U.S. Cohort to Adopt Okanagan Charter

Longevity By Nature

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) is among the inaugural U.S. cohort of eight “health-promoting universities and colleges” to adopt the Okanagan Charter. The Okanagan Charter calls on institutions of higher education to infuse health and well-being into the campus environment and lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally. It provides signees with a common language, set of principles and framework to become health-promoting campuses with cultures of compassion, well-being and equity.

“From its inception, UCI has been dedicated to using its myriad resources to serve and benefit society,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “We are thrilled to formalize our commitment to health and well-being by being a member of the inaugural cohort of the Okanagan Charter.”

Each charter adoptee develops its own strategic plan for living out and implementing health promotion on campus and in the community. By doing so, these universities and colleges improve the well-being of the people who live, learn, work and play on their campuses and strengthen the ecological, social and economic sustainability of their communities and wider society.

As an academic research university with a medical center, UCI already addresses numerous areas of health and well-being within the campus culture and regionally. In the past year, UCI announced plans for a new hospital near its Irvine campus with a naturescape, healing gardens and a research preserve. Additionally, to address the social issues around racial justice, UCI launched the Black Thriving Initiative as a whole-university commitment to creating a culture in which Black people thrive.

On the health affairs side, the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences brings together a first-of-its-kind alliance across the disciplines of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences and population and public health. The college and UCI Health, the university’s healthcare delivery system, are dedicated to improving the human condition through the best in education, research and care.

UCI will use four themes to drive its pathway to becoming what the charter calls a “health-promoting university:” diversity, equity and inclusion; the built environment; a culture of health and well-being; and sustainability.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, UCI’s 20 all-electric shuttle buses and hydrogen fuel cell bus regularly transported students throughout campus. In 2018, UCI became the first university in the country to abandon its traditional diesel fuel-powered fleet and shift to completely sustainable transportation. UCI also has 21 new-construction LEED Platinum buildings, the most of any U.S. campus.

In addition to the medical center and research initiatives that help the local and regional communities, UCI’s campus offers health, wellness and counseling services for students, faculty and staff. These go beyond traditional clinical services and create a culture of proactive tools combined with outreach in a variety of areas. This includes new and innovative ways of reaching the campus community, driven by the transition to remote work and learning in the past year.

While the Okanagan Charter is an independent and aspirational document, campuses around the globe have adopted it as a guide to becoming internationally recognized health-promoting universities. An International Health Promoting Universities & Colleges group has been established that meets regularly and includes representatives from the many national networks of health-promoting campuses. Canada and the United Kingdom are recognized as having well-established networks of health-promoting campuses, and the United States is following their model to create its own national network.

UCI and the rest of the first cohort to officially adopt the Okanagan Charter have established the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network. There are more than 40 campuses in the network that are currently on the path to adoption.

The other universities joining UCI in the inaugural cohort are: Northern Illinois University; the State University of New York at Albany; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; the University of North Florida; Western Washington University; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The goal of the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network is to guide and support campuses as they navigate the process of adopting the Okanagan Charter. After adoption, it becomes a support network that helps campuses define objectives, develop strategies and create metrics for what it means to be a health-promoting campus, as this will be different for each site, based on its unique circumstances, resources and needs.

For more information, visit www.uci.edu.