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Students help staff adopt healthier habits at Healthy University Week

Students on the Health and Medical Psychology master’s programme have developed workshops on topics including reducing stress and being more active at work. They are giving these during Healthy University Week (28 October to 1 November). This is the last part of their course in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Associate Professor Winifred Gebhard is responsible for the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention course. Here students work in teams to develop and carry out an intervention. In the past, this has resulted in workshops at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, but now Gebhardt is one of the organisers of Healthy University Week, she has access to a wider audience. The student teams are giving 12 research-based workshops on four topics:

We spoke to four students.

Kick off Arnold Vanderlyde Healthy University Week 2019
Retired boxer Arnold Vanderlyde was invited to the kick-off of Healthy University Week on 28 October. He gave an interactive presentat

Be more active

Marie Kremer’s team is giving the Be more active at work workshop. Marie: ‘Our slogan is: I like to move it, move it! We could choose from one of four workshops. Luckily, all the team members, including me, got our preferred workshop.’

Marie herself is a fitness fanatic. She runs, does yoga, swims and goes on long walks in the countryside. ‘I do sport at least four times a week, and I love it.’ But that isn’t the only reason why she chose this workshop. ‘As a student, you sit around a lot, so I’ve developed a routine that involves taking plenty of breaks during the day and doing short, intensive exercises to stay alert. That helps me focus and study better. I want to tell people who do sedentary work about my experience.’

Arent Roggeveen Kick off Healthy University week 2019
Arent asks a question during the panel discussion at the kick-off.

Make people happier

Arent Roggeveen also chose the Be more active at work workshop. ‘The message that we want to get across is that it’s important to your health, memory and happiness to move around five minutes every hour.’ Sport is also essential for Arent. He plays tennis, goes to the gym, cycles almost 100 km per week and does qigong, an Asian form of exercise. Not to mention the hiking that he likes to do on holiday. Arent chose this workshop because he wants to help promote healthy behaviour. ‘I think it can make everyone happier. And I think it’ll be fun to do.’ He emphasises that the workshop is just one of the interventions developed to get University staff moving about more. ‘On the theoretical side, we used an Intervention Mapping methodology to look at different scientific behavioural change models and different levels, such as the individual, the team, the Faculty, the University and the environment. Developing and giving a workshop slots in well with this.’

Literature-based practice

Veronique van der Panne chose the same workshop because she found the topic interesting and didn’t know much about it. ‘I already knew that a bad diet and too much stress are bad for you.’ She emphasises that it’s not about encouraging staff to do sport but about getting them to be more active during the day.

Veronique does less sport than Marie and Arent, but enough: ‘Once or twice a week, sometimes as many as four times a week. Dance and running, for instance.’ Veronique thinks it’s really useful to develop a workshop as part of the course. ‘You begin by exploring the literature and end up doing something practical with it. That’s close to how businesses approach interventions. Developing this workshop has given me a better idea of what a job could be like in practice and all that it involves.

Kick off 2018 Healthy University Week 2019 Arnold Vanderlyde
Vanderlyde teaches the audience the basics of boxing. L-R: Pancras Hogendoorn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Martijn Ridderbos, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of the University, Andrea Evers, Professor of Health Psychology and Hanno Pijl, Professor of Diabetology

A healthy diet at work

Yovanka Snyman is in the group that is giving the workshop A healthy diet, also at work. ‘It’s mainly about breakfast, and why it’s important not to skip it.’ The group began by doing a needs assessment, which meant looking at the health consequences of skipping breakfast for the target group – in this case, the staff members. ‘We found that one of the determinants of skipping breakfast is a lack of time, so developed our workshop to address this.’

Yovanka is enjoying her involvement in the workshop because it gives her the chance to have an impact on people’s behaviour. ‘There’s always room for improvement when it comes to health, and workshops like this are ideal for promoting different habits. I’m not sure what I’d like to do after I graduate, but this course is giving me the opportunity to gain experience in non-therapeutic interventions. I’m very excited to see how the workshops go next week.’

Healthy University Week Kick off 2019
The kick-off meeting in the conference room at the Poort Building was packed.
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