With the Okanagan Charter, Cornell will become a health-promoting campus

On Oct. 26, Cornell administrators will sign the Okanagan Charter, a formal pledge to promote health and wellness in all aspects of university life.

The charter, developed in 2015 by academics, researchers, practitioners and administrators from 45 countries involved in health promotion, aims to guide higher education institutions to take the lead in developing and modeling health promotion strategies on their campuses .

President Martha E. Pollack and university leaders representing all areas of the campus community will sign the charter, which embodies Cornell’s commitment to prioritizing health and wellness and kicks off the next phase of the Student Mental Health Review.

“The Okanagan Charter is an important way for Cornell to reaffirm and formalize our commitment to supporting the health of our students, faculty and staff,” Pollack said. “This will support us in finding new ways to embed health-promoting behaviors into our campus culture and in identifying and sharing best practices to support community wellness.”

More than 100 American colleges and universities are currently exploring charter adoption; Cornell is one of a dozen accepting it this fall. The formal adoption of the charter signals an institutional will to embed health into all aspects of campus culture, from administration to operations to academic mandates. It also reaffirms the commitment to lead health promotion and collaboration at local and global levels.

“Cornell has long recognized that health and wellness are fundamental to the academic and personal success of all students and their ability to thrive on campus and into the future,” said Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life. “The Okanagan Charter provides a robust set of principles for how we will continue to approach health and wellness in all areas both in and out of the classroom. I am proud to make this important public health commitment that will support all members of the Cornell community.”

Two collaborative campus wellness advisory groups—one focused on students, the other on faculty and staff—will use multidisciplinary approaches to research and implement change and sustain momentum over time. Aligning the needs of students and staff recognizes overlapping interests and opportunities for positive change, administrators said.

“It’s great to be a part of the effort to support the wellness needs of all members of our community, including faculty and staff,” said Christine D. Lovely, vice president and chief human resources officer. “I feel fortunate to have joined a university where a collaborative approach to campus well-being is upheld at the very top of the institution. Our existing employee well-being efforts are well-aligned with this approach.”

The Cornell community is invited to attend the adoption of the Okanagan Charter on October 26 at 3:30 pm in front of Cornell Health on Ho Plaza and hear remarks from Cornell leadership, including Lombardi; Beautiful; Lisa Nishi, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education; and Catherine Burr, dean of the graduate school and vice chancellor for graduate education. Representatives from Cornell Health and Human Resources will be present to discuss available wellness resources.

Additional programming on campus will take place throughout the semester, including an Employee Benefair on November 9 for faculty and staff and stress relief activities for students in mid-November. Related information can be found at mentalhealth.cornell.edu and on the Cornell Events calendar.

Jennifer Austin is the director of communications at Cornell Health.

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