DMU celebrates pioneering campus-wide wellness initiative

On April 2, 2019, the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector to ensure that all children and young adults have the opportunity to live healthy, active lives, announced that Des Moines University (DMU) has completed its three-year commitment to expanding healthier options across campus.

DMU is one of 32 institutions of higher learning to successfully complete their commitments to implementing PHA’s rigorous Healthier Campus Initiative (HCI) guidelines. The HCI guidelines are designed to create a culture shift towards greater health and wellness among the entire campus community. They range from providing healthier meals and convenient access to potable water to providing diverse opportunities for physical activity.

“Des Moines University views the engagement with Partnership for a Healthier America as integral to the mission and core values of our organization,” says DMU President and CEO Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D. “With a firm commitment to training future health professionals and a sincere and genuine desire to promote health and wellness within our organization, we not only state wellness as a core value, but also live it as one of our fundamental guiding principles. This work is vital to our success.”

The University agreed to complete 23 objectives in three categories over a three-year period. The three categories are food and nutrition, in which DMU completed 10 objectives; physical activity, also in which DMU completed 10 objectives; and programming, in which the University met three objectives.

Staff of Summerfield’s, DMU’s on-campus cafe and food service, have worked to make healthy dining both easier and delicious.

“We congratulate DMU’s commitment to supporting students and their wider campus community to form healthy habits that will last a lifetime,” said PHA President and CEO Nancy E. Roman. “Their demonstrated leadership is an important step forward toward realizing Partnership for a Healthier America’s goal that all young people grow up free from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with excess weight.”

As part of its Healthier Campus Initiative commitment, DMU worked collaboratively with PHA to build upon existing campus wellness efforts to encourage and support greater physical activity and healthier eating habits. Of the 23 commitment elements implemented at the University, a few include:

  • Encouraging student physical activity and movement through campus facilities and programs during the academic year. DMU offers 20 diverse recreation, physical activity and competitive sports opportunities ranging from intramural basketball and volleyball to ping pong, ballroom dance practice, wrestling and a wide variety of fitness classes.
  • Providing healthier food and beverage services in campus-operated dining venues. The University offers at least one wellness meal at each breakfast, lunch and dinner served.
  • Enabling students and employees to plan and purchase healthier meals with labels and five digital monitors at the University’s five food stations that detail calorie counts, nutritional information and potential allergens for all food options.
Yoga is just one of the many fitness classes DMU offers.

PHA’s guidelines were developed in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts. As with all PHA partners, each of the commitment elements have been verified by an independent third party and are publicly reported in PHA’s annual progress reports.

Des Moines University’s wellness program, launched in 1989, features a 25,000 square-foot Wellness Center with a full-size gym, running track, exercise classroom, a wide variety of equipment, intramural sports and a wellness kitchen; a “Wellness Pays” program that offers employees financial incentives for working out, getting preventive health care and participating in other health-related activities; three full-time staff members and student employees who lead a variety of exercise classes and offer individual wellness consultations; and a variety of exercise classes and lunch-and-learn programs.

“It’s such an exciting achievement for DMU to be recognized as one of the 2019 completing Partnership for a Healthier America partners,” says Joy Schiller, M.S., CHES, the University’s director of wellness. “The PHA guidelines were developed in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts—around nutrition, physical activity and programming to help students adopt healthier lifestyle habits that last for a lifetime.

Joy notes that a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine in 2014 revealed that 95 percent of students fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and more than 60 percent report are not getting enough physical activity.

“Research shows the choices many students are making can hurt them in the long run,” she says. “As a medical and health sciences university, it’s important to get our students on board with healthy lifestyles so that as future health practitioners, they will be more likely to reinforce the importance of healthy lifestyles to their patients. Going through this process has strengthened our wellness program and activities that better support our campus population in their efforts to stay on track with healthy lifestyle habits.”

On Feb. 7, DMU received the 2019 Healthiest State Large Workplace Award from Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, which annually recognizes communities, workplaces, schools and individuals for promoting healthy habits and lifestyles. The University also has twice been awarded platinum status from the Wellness Councils of America, the highest honor the organization bestows. DMU is the nation’s first and only college or university to earn this distinction.

For more information on the University’s wellness program, visit

Labels in DMU’s “Grab’n’Go” cafeteria section provide nutrition information.

To learn more about PHA’s participating colleges and universities, visit For a full overview of the Partnership for a Healthier America, visit

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) was created in 2010 in conjunction with—but independent from— former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! effort. PHA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is led by some of the nation’s most respected health and childhood obesity experts. PHA brings together public, private and nonprofit leaders to broker meaningful commitments and develop strategies to end childhood obesity. PHA ensures that commitments made are commitments kept by working with unbiased third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress its partners are making.

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