UCI News

UCI is among inaugural US cohort to adopt Okanagan Charter

8 campuses formalize commitment to be ‘health-promoting universities’

September 1, 2021
UCI is among inaugural US cohort to adopt Okanagan Charter
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. Above, students enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the campus’s Aldrich Park. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 1, 2021 – The University of California, Irvine is among the inaugural U.S. cohort of eight “health-promoting universities and colleges” to adopt the Okanagan Charter and will join the others in a virtual signing ceremony today. 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.

“We are honored to be a part of the inaugural cohort of U.S. universities adopting the Okanagan Charter,” said Douglas Haynes, UCI vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. “UCI is committed to a culture of health and well-being. Wellness forms an integral part of the UCI Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence.”

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’s interprofessional model of healthcare transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and encompasses the well-being of the whole person,” said Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor for health affairs. As the UC’s only health sciences campus to incorporate integrative health research, teaching and patient care across its schools and programs, we work to advance the physical and emotional well-being of individuals and communities in an inclusive manner to prevent disease and support good health.”

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.

“UCI faculty, staff, students and alumni support the Okanagan Charter’s values of compassion, well-being, equity, social justice and holistic health,” said Wendell Brase, associate chancellor for sustainability. “These values are not merely acknowledged but impel campuswide, interdisciplinary action toward climate solutions that are tangible and scalable beyond the campus – to California and, ultimately, globally.”

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.

“Being part of the first cohort of U.S. universities to adopt the Okanagan Charter is a testament to the university’s commitment to health and well-being not only internally, but throughout the region in all areas UCI touches,” said Doug Everhart, director of UCI’s Center for Student Wellness & Health Promotion and a member of the executive committee of the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network.

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.

About the Okanagan Charter: The Okanagan Charter is a guiding and aspirational document that was developed as an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities & Colleges. Its purpose is to guide colleges and universities – using their unique positions and roles in research, teaching and service to their communities – in becoming leaders for the world in developing and modeling health-promoting strategies in their campus settings. Local communities could then learn from their examples and modeling, thus influencing global health and well-being strategies.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/susan-and-henry-samueli-college-of-health-sciences/.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Land acknowledgement: The UCI campus is located on the homelands of the Acjachemen and Tongva peoples, who – in the face of ongoing settler colonialism – continue to claim their place and act as stewards of their ancestral lands as they have for the past 8,000 years. The region extends from the Santa Ana River to Aliso Creek and beyond.

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