At the 2017 ACSM Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, representatives from Penn State University presented a poster on their EIM on Campus (EIM-OC) efforts, highlighting their five years of involvement with the initiative, the successes behind their EIM on Campus week, and the process of achieving gold level recognition. The program was originally started by students on campus in 2010 seeking to bring EIM to Penn State. It was later formally adopted by the Department of Kinesiology and their Kinesiology Club in 2012. Five years later, the program is a thriving as an established campus program with their success largely attributable to its large student engagement and strong leadership.
Their poster presentation in Denver discussed research conducted around EIM on Campus Week (October), provided an analysis of their growth over the last five years, described its expansion, and identified future progress. The results of their work yielded positive feedback from both their student community, as well as campus partners. In speaking with Zack Papalia, Penn State’s EIM Program Coordinator, their EIM on Campus week has now become an engrained part of the campus culture. They have expanded their efforts into other activities, such as a mobile EIM program, to reach out beyond the border of their campus. The EIM-OC team has also traveled to other Penn State campus branches throughout Pennsylvania to promote EIM, provide health and fitness assessments, and even do peer mentoring for students who are interested in a career in kinesiology.
During the 2016-17 academic year, Penn State achieved gold level recognition for their EIM-related activities. To achieve gold status, a campus must assess physical activity as a vital sign (PAVS). Penn State achieved this by setting up a referral system through which their campus health services could refer student patients to for physical activity counseling and prescription. From there, the EIM-OC program established physician champions within the health center to support their efforts. Finally, they were successful in establishing the use of the PAVS in their campus health centers. Their next step is to integrate the PAVS as a permanent feature of their electronic medical records. Although most programs seek to first integrate the PAVS in a clinic setting, working backwards still led to the establishment of the vital sign. According to Dr. Melissa Bopp, their EIM-OC advisory, it was important to get the physicians at the health center on board first in order to formally implement the PAVS in their system. Without the physician champions, the PAVS would not be used in the clinic setting. By setting up a referral process prior to establishing the PAVS, they were able to provide evidence that they could successfully link patients to existing resources on campus with a credible reputation.
Penn State’s EIM-OC provides a strong example of a successful EIM-OC program on a large campus and how to integrate physical activity into student health centers. They are now working with the other Penn State campuses to expand the impact of EIM even further. When asked to summarize what has made their program so strong, both Mr. Papalia and Dr. Bopp emphasize the importance of the students. It is the students that are the driving force behind the program and they are the ones that continue to lead the program towards a bright future.