Recently I sat down for an interview with Dr. James Watters, RIT’s Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, to talk about the Better Me program that he’s championed since it was introduced to the RIT community in 2007. Better Me is an employee wellness initiative which aims to “create a culture of health and wellness” by providing health education and a variety of resources to faculty and staff. I asked Dr. Watters about the strategy behind the program, his thoughts on progress to this point, and his vision for the future of the initiative.
Dr. Watters believes that Better Me can help address one of the most prevalent and troublesome health problems for Americans: preventable chronic diseases that are both dangerous to the patient and expensive for the health care system to treat. Serious problems such as diabetes and heart disease can often be effectively managed or avoided altogether through diet, exercise, stress management and other healthy practices. By offering an array of on-campus resources, Better Me makes it easier for employees to pursue a healthier lifestyle that, among other benefits, will reduce their chances of being affected by chronic health problems.
Dr. Watters observes that the program has made some headway in improving employee heath, as measured by overall utilization of health care services by RIT employees (data which, he stressed, does not include any information on individual employees’ usage of services), but he’s eager to expand the program’s reach and effectiveness. He recently invited Dr. Barry Bittman, a well-known expert on health and wellness, to campus to discuss the Better Me program. Dr. Bittman provided insights on the benefits of focusing special attention on members of a community whose current health or family history indicate an elevated risk of diabetes, heart disease or cancer. If Better Me can improve its outreach to individuals who have the most to gain from its services, Dr. Watters believes that the benefits for employee health and reductions in health care costs could be dramatic.
Asked about specific future plans and goals for Better Me, Dr. Watters was enthusiastic about the newly-opened Better Me Wellness Center at Global Village, which is open 24/7 and offers aerobic machines, free weights and other equipment. The all-hours facility has special appeal to employees who work alternate shifts and can’t always get to the Wiedman Fitness Center in the SLC during open hours. He also plans to explore opportunities to utilize the alliance with RGHS to improve employee health. The upcoming hiring of RIT’s new HR director also offers a potential opportunity to develop incentives for employees who utilize Better Me services.
If you’re interested in learning more about what Better Me has to offer, visit their website for a complete list of programs and services. For personal guidance and advice from on-campus experts, RIT’s wellness coaches are available to help you meet your goals.