URI establishes Center for Wellness Research and Education

Initiative evolved from governor’s state employee wellness program

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 1, 2006 – The University of Rhode Island has established a Center for Wellness Research and Education designed to advance interdisciplinary health and wellness research and outreach aimed at improving the health of all Rhode Islanders. The initiative was announced at a ceremony today on URI’s Kingston campus.

“The University is already a recognized leader in wellness and health promotion, and we bring to the table a distinguished faculty with expertise in such fields as pharmacy, nursing, nutrition, exercise science and cancer prevention, many of whom have been engaged in wellness efforts for decades,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers. “This new research and education entity will facilitate and enhance synergy among faculty and students from many different disciplines to more effectively address emerging health issues for Rhode Islanders, the region and the nation.”

The Center concept grew from Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri’s wellness initiative for state employees, Get Fit Rhode Island, which was launched in 2005 and included a subcommittee of URI and Brown University health researchers. That subcommittee proposed the idea of a research and education center housed at URI, and several members now form the center’s steering committee.

“Not only will this new center bring together some of the state’s best health and wellness experts, along with partner organizations in the community, but it will serve as a health information hub for Rhode Islanders by translating laboratory research into practical approaches to healthier lifestyles,” said Thomas Manfredi, URI professor of kinesiology and director of the center.

Associate directors of the center are Nancy Fey-Yensan, professor of nutrition and assistant director for land grant programs at URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, and Deb Riebe, professor and chair of the URI Department of Kinesiology.

Focusing first on such topics as diet, exercise and stress reduction, the center will soon launch a wellness website that will provide visitors with useful health tips, direct them to reputable sources of detailed wellness information, and link them to other recommended websites where they can conduct self-assessments of their health. In addition, researchers can seek colleagues with similar interests through this website and be notified of grant opportunities and potential community collaborations.

“We will be taking a broad view of wellness and all of its related issues,” noted Fey-Yensan. “For instance, is literacy a wellness issue? It is if you can’t read the directions on your medications. The center will be examining a wide range of concerns that will lead to an improved quality of health and life for all Rhode Islanders.”

In addition to fostering interdisciplinary wellness research and outreach opportunities, the Center for Wellness Research and Education will maintain a library of wellness-related teaching materials, resources, and activities. It will also establish a speaker’s bureau to provide community groups with resources for presentations on a variety of health and wellness topics.

One target audience of the center will be state employees, who will be offered workplace education programs through the University on nutrition and other topics. State employees may also be invited to participate in pilot research studies or behavioral interventions on a wide range of health subjects. These initiatives are part of Governor Carcieri’s efforts to have Rhode Island be designated the first Wellness State in the country by the Wellness Council of America.

Temporarily based at URI’s Independence Square, the center will be self-funded through grants generated by faculty research teams in partnership with other agencies and institutions.