Photo of UW-Eau Claire campus

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff are moving toward better health thanks to a globally recognized wellness program collaboration between the university and Mayo Clinic Health System.

UW-Eau Claire is among 145 universities and colleges around the world honored by Exercise is Medicine, earning a silver-level designation in the community-impact initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Wellness education initiatives in the university’s Exercise is Medicine On Campus (EIM-OC) program focuses on the importance of physical activity and its role in preventing and treating diseases. The program is a collaboration among the university’s Student Health Service, Recreation and Sport Operations and department of kinesiology, and Mayo Clinic Health System.

Dr. Saori Braun, associate professor of kinesiology

“It is an important initiative as exercise can be utilized as both preventative and rehabilitative programs to maintain and improve not only one’s physical health but also mental health,” says Dr. Saori Braun, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of kinesiology who is lead faculty advisor for EIM-OC.

UW-Eau Claire has been involved in EIM-OC for several years, offering one-on-one fitness assessments and exercise prescriptions to the campus community, Braun says. The university’s program has included the creation and distribution of an EIM-OC brochure outlining program goals and opportunities for students, faculty and staff. Exercise is Medicine “pill bottles” containing a mini exercise slip also were handed out to students at a mental health fair.

Dr. Amy Rantala, primary care sports medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System’s department of sports medicine and orthopedics

Promoting wellness at any age is “exceptionally important,” says Dr. Amy Rantala, primary care sports medicine physician in Mayo Clinic Health System’s department of sports medicine and orthopedics. Physical exercise can help people avoid developing chronic diseases that can be costly in medications and medical care and could lead to more expensive, catastrophic health events such as heart attack or stroke, Rantala says.

“In an era of spiraling health care expenditures, getting patients to be more active may be the ultimate low-cost therapy for achieving improved health outcomes,” Rantala says.

“Exercise can prevent so much of what ails us. Every active minute adds up to better health.”

Rantala, who has worked with UW-Eau Claire in various roles, including as medical director of the master of science in athletic training program and team physician for Blugold athletics, has seen the power of collaboration through the formal master research agreement UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System have had since 2017.

“We have an excellent public university filled with students with curious young minds, fresh ideas and energy, coupling with a world-class health care organization, with both eager to make a difference in health and quality of life,” Rantala says.

Rantala says she and Braun have a shared interest in promoting EIM-OC to UW-Eau Claire, with plans to bring the program to western Wisconsin communities. Rantala also has connected with Dr. Stacey Jackson, associate professor of psychology, to do research to improve the mental health of student-athletes.

“In another five years, I am confident we will reflect and see further advances in the relationships formed that will benefit patients, students and the community at large,” Rantala says.

Rantala and Braun are optimistic that UW-Eau Claire can receive a gold-level recognition in 2025 after a referral model for students, faculty and staff is established between Mayo Clinic Health System internal medicine providers and UW-Eau Claire’s department of kinesiology exercise physiologists.

Written by UW-Eau Claire

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