Pitt announced Monday that, in an effort to expand health-related research at the University, it will add a new Healthy Lifestyle Institute to the School of Education.
The Healthy Lifestyle Institute will create new centers and programs within various schools at the University to enhance research capacity, according to a press release. The research will center on modifications to lifestyle behaviors — including biological factors, diet and exercise — that could have an impact on a person’s overall health.
“We know that lifestyle factors contribute significantly to prevention and treatment of many chronic health conditions, and carving out an initiative that will focus on how to engage individuals [in Southwestern Pennsylvania] across the lifespan in lifestyle behaviors that impact health will address a significant public health need,” John Jakicic, the institute’s founding director, said in an email to The Pitt News.
Jakicic, the current chair of the School of Education’s Department of Health and Physical Activity, said in the release the institute will work to encourage collaboration between Pitt researchers, clinicians and leaders to promote healthy living on campus.
“Pitt is a world-class institution of higher education, and it is my hope that the formation of this institute will allow us to provide world class health and wellness initiatives to the Pitt community to improve health and quality of life,” Jakicic said.
According to the release, the School of Education dean will appoint an advisory board for the institute.
“A number of advisory committees will be formed to provide insight and guidance as the institute works towards achieving its stated mission,” Jakicic said. “For the institute to be successful, it needs to take different perspectives into consideration.”
The institute will also focus on new ways to spread the results of its findings and initiatives through training measures for health care professionals and working with nonprofit organizations and public schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The release said these initiatives and partnerships are crucial the institute’s success but that specific plans are still developing.
“Because this institute has only recently been formed, these collaborations have not yet been established,” Jakicic said.
Pitt envisions the institute as “a model for how universities can communicate internally” as well as a way for the University to position itself as a leader in understanding how health is affected by lifestyle factors.
Margaret Shuff, a senior studying nonfiction English writing and plans on entering the education field, said teachers at all levels of the system should make sure students and the community understand basic health needs.
“From a future educator’s standpoint, setting a good example for your students is only part of understanding the importance of health education,” Shuff said.
Looking toward her own future career as a teacher, Shuff said educational institutions that focus on health can help improve society on the whole.
“Health and education, whether it be in a traditional classroom or in the form of signs and pamphlets, ties into an educator’s mission entirely,” Shuff said. “Health can be the difference between students and educators making the most of their abilities, which in turn helps others.”