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Operation Wellness Helps Two Schools Achieve Healthy School Status

Ball State University's Operation Wellness initiative helped two Wells County elementary schools earn Healthy Hoosier School Awards. The awards, sponsored by the Indiana Action for Healthy Kids, were given to Southern Wells Elementary School and Lancaster Central Elementary School, two of 11 Indiana schools honored for improving their school health environment.

"These schools have shown that they place a high priority on teaching children healthy habits that will last a lifetime," said Sarah Titzer, chair of Indiana Action for Healthy Kids Team. "The leaders in these schools have made the connection that healthy students enhance academic performance and achievement."

Operation Wellness is an ambitious fitness program that is helping build a better community in Wells County. The program, launched in 2003, is funded by $1 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Caylor-Nickel Foundation and other Wells County funding partners.

Hundreds of the county's residents have lost weight, are eating healthier and exercising more often because of the initiative, which has employed a number of different strategies to achieve its goal of improving the health of residents of all ages, said Carol Friesen, grant coordinator and associate professor of nutrition at Ball State.

"Students are not only becoming lifelong learners but also lifelong practitioners of healthy living – and that is the goal of Operation Wellness," she said. "It's very satisfying to see that the initiative is already having such a positive impact."

In schools, Operation Wellness helped provide the following:

  • Summer programs that focus on increasing physical activity and healthy eating
  • Financial support for in-school initiatives, such as the walking program offered during recess, and for all physical activity programs offered after school. Lancaster Elementary has 269 students enrolled in the walking program – 48 percent of the student body – with each student averaging nearly 30 miles for this school year
  • Nutrition consultation at least every two weeks. The participants prepare and are served healthful, nutritious snacks and receive nutrition education
  • A comprehensive health fair where students receive dental assessments and evaluations of their recovery heart rate, body mass index, blood chemistry profile, blood pressure screening and more
  • Wellness councils at Lancaster and Southern Wells elementary schools
  • A boost in overall daily attendance at Lancaster Elementary to more than 96 percent
  • Free weight-loss programs for community members and school teachers and staff

One example of an adult program is "Dump Your Plump," a team weight-loss competition among coworkers held three times a year. In the spring competition, 108 participants shed a combined 856 pounds.

Building Better Communities is an initiative designed to spur economic development and quality of life advancement in Indiana by applying Ball State's strengths in applied research and hands-on learning to projects across the state. Building Better Communities works to match the university's expertise and resources to the varied needs of Indiana communities.

For more information on Ball State University's Operation Wellness, visit

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