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January 13, 2003

Online Wellness Profile offers free health assessment

By Louise Donahue

If December is the month for celebrating, January is the month for many people to take stock—and get in shape. The Personal Wellness Profile, a free online health risk assessment, is a good first step.

Wellness Center slug graphic

Offered as part of the wide-ranging Online Wellness Center web site, the profile offers individualized feedback based on answers to a 40-question questionnaire.

"It's an awareness tool," said Ryan Andrews, director of the Wellness Center for the Office of Physical Education, Recreation, Sports, and Wellness (OPERS). "A lot of people don't know where to start."

After answering questions on height, weight, age, and frame size, participants are asked for additional information, from family medical history to physical activity, eating habits, and stress. They then are told their "health age" and given numerical ratings in seven health areas, including coronary risk, nutrition, and fitness. Suggestions for better health--such as achieving a healthy weight and improving nutrition--are also offered.

Andrews said feedback from participants has been positive. "People say, 'I've learned something about myself.' " He noted that the information submitted to the profile is password-protected, and not accessible to UCSC. The profile, and the rest of the Online Wellness Center web site, is run by Wellsource, an outside company which also serves many corporate clients.

In addition to making the profile available to the overall campus community, Andrews said the Wellness Center selected a small group of students, faculty, and staff members who applied to be "guinea pigs" for a more intensive health assessment. Wellness Center staffers will have an initial meeting with this group to gather health information, then meet with each member monthly to focus on different health-related areas.

Participants in the pilot program will set both monthly and yearly goals, and retake the wellness profile after one year. "When the whole year is over, hopefully we'll see some improvement," Andrews said.

Participants in the program were chosen because they were considered good candidates for improving their health, Andrews said. "We chose those who were ready to change--people on the cusp" of becoming more fit, he said.

The Wellness Center offers various services, including fitness testing and personal trainers, for those wishing to improve their health. Information is available on the OPERS web site.

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