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Leiden university becomes first Dutch 'healthy university'

Leiden, October 17, 2018 -  ‘I hope you have all come on foot or by bicycle,' Marleen van ’t Oever, head of communication for the LUMC, told the professors, deans and staff assembled in the Faculty Club. In any case, many of those present spent most of the meeting standing up, which is a good sign. Andrea Evers is a co-chair of this initiative, together with Hanno Pijl.

Andrea Evers, Hanno Pijl, Carel Stolker, Pancras Hogendoorn, Philip Spinhoven, Winnie Gebhardt and Jet Bussemaker.

Best practices

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Pancras Hogendoorn kicks a space hopper aside as he explains how during a visit to Edinburgh, he became inspired when he saw how the university there benefited from membership of Healthy Universities. In this originally British network, the member universities exchange best practices with one another in the area of health, well-being and sustainability. ‘As a hospital and university, we have to make sure that we practise what we preach.'  

Worskhops on healthier living

Professor of Health Psychology Andrea Evers, also an intiator, is in complete agreement. ‘We spend a lot of time teaching about health and well-being. Why wouldn't we apply this knowledge to our students and staff, and then do more research?' Students of the master's in Health and Medical Psychology will be giving workshops on 18 and 19 October to students and staff about sleeping better, healthy eating, being more active and reducing stress. 'We are not a public health institution, but we do have to offer good support to help prevent stress overload, depression and alcohol abuse,' Professor of Clinical psychology Philip Spinhoven pointed out. Spinhoven is chair of the new Student Well-being Taskforce. 

Jet Bussemaker

Leiden Professor Jet Bussemaker is an ambassor for Healthy Universities

‘This intiative fits well within my chair in Science, Policy and  Societal Impact in Healthcare. As a minister, for five years I had a car and chauffeur and almost every physical activity was done for me. When I left, I told my chauffeurs that they were probably the people I was going to miss the most. But I was wrong: I really enjoy being more active. Taking the stairs instead of the lift can make quite a difference - although it may take you some time to actually find the stairs. Luckily, the main stairs in our Wijnhaven Building in The Hague are also a platform for events, and that's the way it should be. I'm not sure yet exactly what I will be doing as ambassador. Maybe I'll be space-hopping up and down the corridors!' 

Alcohol-free beer

Rector Carel Stolker thanked all the initiators: 'I am so pleased that you approached me with this idea just as we were discussing work pressure in our Board meeting. A number of intiatives had already been started, but this comprehensive approach means that more attention will be paid to the health and well-being of students and staff throughout the whole University.’ What would the Rector himself like to change?  ‘The drinks. A former interim Dean at the School of Law once remarked that people at universities drink more than anywhere else - and he may well have been right. We should definitely keep on having the drinks parties because they are important opportunities for networking, but we should also make sure there are alcohol-free drinks available. And in meetings, why not offer apples instead of biscuits? I already do that in my meetings.' 

Source: Leiden University Website, photos by Sahra Almahmood,  text  by Linda van Putten.

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