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Georgia Southern Statesboro Campus, city of Statesboro team up to improve health

City of Statesboro employees are improving their health and wellness thanks to the help of Georgia Southern University faculty and students who have customized a worksite wellness program that meets the needs of the city’s diverse workforce.

Faculty members from the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology, Bridget Melton, Ed.D., Greg Ryan, Ph.D., Ron Snarr, Ph.D., and Amy Jo Riggs, Ph.D., have spearheaded the mutually-benefiting partnership, which not only allows for unique learning experiences for undergraduate and graduate exercise science students, but it also provides wellness education and programming to city employees.

“Through courses such as tactical strength and conditioning and worksite wellness, we are able to provide experiential and service learning opportunities for our students as well as help those who provide for our city,” said Melton.

The Statesboro Fire Department (SFD) was one of the first city departments to solidify its partnership with Georgia Southern.

“We take the health of our firefighters very seriously, and we know improving our health has a positive impact on how we perform on the job and in life,” said Deputy Fire Chief Bobby Duggar. “It is nice to have advice from experts in the field on how we can improve.”

Each Friday, the fire department shift participates in training sessions led by Georgia Southern graduate students Brandon Loewen and Macy Weeks. During the training sessions, undergraduate students volunteer to assist and provide physical training to help the firefighters better prepare for emergency calls, prevent injuries in the field and build positive morale.

“The Friday fitness training definitely helps promote a culture of health and safety at the fire department in a setting and spirit that really works for our firefighters,” added SFD Chief and Health and Safety Officer Merritt Kearns.

Additionally, the fire department and the Statesboro Police Department have welcomed Georgia Southern to be a part of their recruit training programs. During the recruit training programs, exercise science graduate students provide morning training sessions to help new recruits prepare for their careers in the fire service and law enforcement.

“We are able to track the effectiveness of the different programs by conducting pre- and post-fitness assessments, which also aids with faculty and student research,” said Ryan.

Each year, the fire department is required to complete fitness testing protocols to meet the National Fire and Prevention Association standards. The testing is usually contracted out, but this year the department utilized its partnership with Georgia Southern.

“Our relationship with Georgia Southern has really grown, and we were confident they would be up for the challenge of testing our department,”  Assistant Chief Jason Baker said.

These type of collaborations fuel not only service but also scholarship.

“Emily Langford, one of our graduate students in the exercise science program, took a leadership role in the fire department’s fitness testing project,” said Snarr. “She is using this information for her thesis project.”

Testing of the 44 fire department staff members required the efforts of four faculty mentors, five graduate students and more than 20 undergraduates, along with the assistance of the city of Statesboro’s Wellness Centers staff.

Along with the programs currently being offered to the police department and fire department, each Monday Georgia Southern interns lead wellness movement breaks called Brain Busters at Statesboro City Hall. These breaks provide the opportunity for employees to get up from their desks and recharge their bodies and minds.

“I have really enjoyed my internship with the city, and I have been exposed whole new world with worksite wellness,” said Catherine Gallagher, a senior exercise science student.

This spring the wellness programming is going to expand to preventing type 2 diabetes with implementing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Program titled: Prevent T2. The year-long program will focus on small health changes to make a big difference in employee health.

“We meet weekly and talk about realistic strategies to improve wellness,” said Weeks. “It is great to see the support of the workers.”

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