Health & Wellness Community
LIT’s Vision and Strategy to 2020 describes its active leadership in education, enterprise and engagement throughout Limerick City and County, Tipperary and Clare.
LIT Health & Wellness Community is a cross-disciplinary Community of Practice led by LIT’s Department of Social Science, Department of Sport and Finance, Department of Applied Science and Department of Flexible Learning which collaborates with all discipline areas of LIT including the Department of Food and Tourism, the School of Art and Design and the Faculty of Applied Science, Engineering and IT. Communities of Practice are described as groups of individuals linked together by their enthusiasm for sharing and expanding their knowledge, typically in informal settings and arrangements. The aim of this community is to facilitate knowledge and idea sharing and collaboration amongst LIT staff across departments, functions and campuses, facilitated through the use of enterprise social networking tools. This Health and Wellness Community of Practice will work closely with the LIT Access function and its health practitioners, LIT’s Sports Office and the Campus Development Committee in addition to LIT’s Research, Enterprise and Development function to develop interdisciplinary projects and themes which support the wellbeing of our students in addition to developing community engagement project ideas which support our local community and the development of its people and economy. The outcomes of this community will be ideas which can be transformed into projects and programmes delivered by LIT’s appropriate functions.
Our vision is to create a community of academic excellence in themes associated with health and wellness which draws on LIT’s expertise in the practice of Social Care, Food, Sports Strength and Conditioning and Applied Science. This community will be led by LIT staff members from a wide variety of discipline areas across all of LIT whose activities will all focus on the delivery of innovative solutions to the personal and societal challenges which we face in the coming years. This community is not a replacement for LIT's already established development and research centres but it will work closely with these centres to ensure the translation of their research outcomes into meaningful health and wellbeing advances for LIT's stakeholders.
Background: “Wellness” is a broad term which embraces the active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Other definitions of Wellness include:
"a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (The World Health Organization).
"a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential" (The National Wellness Institute, USA).
Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.
There are 8 dimensions to wellness:
Initially LIT’s Health and Wellness Community will focus on aspects of Social and Physical Health and Wellness but as cross-disciplinary teams of academic staff develop it is envisaged that other dimensions of Health and Wellness will quickly emerge particularly involving the environmental and financial dimensions. A key focus of the Institute will be impact for the organisations and companies with whom we engage.
The primary focus of the Institute which include two principle strands of Social Wellness and Physical Wellness. Spanning these strands will be four themes namely Aging, Sports, Food and Nutrition and Medical Technology. Currently in LIT these strands and themes are divided up and delivered by separate academic departments but this new community of practice under the brand of “Health and Wellness Academy” will allow a seamless and fluid mechanism which supports the development and delivery of impact-driven interdisciplinary activities and the development of novel project ideas.
An overview of the themes of LIT's Health and Wellness Community of Practice:
Wellness across our lifespan, grief and loss research, death cafes, links with ISAX
Nutrition, disease prevention, new food product development, movement studies, focus groups
Community-based engagement initiatives, teaching STEM through sport, drug-awareness programmes
movement studies, strength and conditioning
Food and Nutrition
Obesity studies, community educational programmes, new product development, focus groups
Bio-chemical studies - new product development, bio-marker identification, novel and improved process development
Educational programmes on personal health screening, focus groups
Big Data processing and visualisation and audioisation, development of educational tools
Examples of projects requiring multiple discipline input:
1. Studies supporting assisted living for the aging which would involve the discipline areas of social care, built environment and medical technology.
2. The development of a novel shoe design to support a particular type of movement for a sports athlete or an aging person.
3. The production of bio-active compounds by plants with health benefits which are incorporated into new food products.
4. The design of sports programmes which develop STEM skills in secondary school students.
5. The development of literacy and numeracy skills in primary school students through sports.
6. The design and production of Apps which may be educational or health monitoring or for mental health.
7. The collaboration with local community organisations to educate our citizens on healthy eating and health lifestyles.
8. Outreach programmes between LIT and our local communities which encourages and supports lifelong learning.
9. Build relationships between primary and secondary educational institutions in our catchment area to encourage access to LIT facilities and courses.
10. The development of special purpose awards for part-time Personal Development programmes.
11. Within LIT to develop a support programme for our students involving their academics and LIT healthcare professionals to ensure their personal and academic wellbeing throughout their studies at LIT.
Format of project ideas:
The "Health and Wellness Academy" is realistically a brand or an umbrella under which many new and exciting interdisciplinary initiatives can be developed and delivered. The current faculty and department structure of LIT is challenging when it comes to such initiatives as they (up to now) have had to have a 'lead' or responsible academic department. This new Community with its 'Health and Wellness' theme is suitably vague as the title itself is self-explanatory and it alone encompasses the very ethos of what LIT wishes to deliver to its stakeholders.
Interest in this initiative both inside and externally to LIT is rapidly growing and discussions have already started with a number of local companies and community organisations who wish to develop project ideas under this Health and Wellness theme. More information on these can be provided if required.
The strands and themes have been identified through consultation with academic staff across LIT including academic staff outside the four proposing departments such as the discipline areas of art and design (art therapy, smart clothing), IT (big data, medical technology, data visualisation, game educational tools) and the built environment (assisted living). There are currently over 50 members in this community of practice.
With maximum impact the initiative and projects may include the following:
- collaborative programmes with DEIS schools promoting academic and personal development of their students
- design and delivery of outreach programmes promoting LIT and its courses
- design of alternative programmes which inspire academic interest in non-traditional and disadvantaged learners such as the teaching of STEM subjects through sport
- 3rd and 4th year LIT undergraduate projects with a health and wellness theme
- industry projects - collaborative research and development
- medium/large and national/international research projects
- taught/research masters and PhD supervision
- hosting of international researchers or academics on erasmus or travel grants
- development of programmes by LIT academic and support staff to focus on the wellbeing and progression of our students
Supplementary themes – physical activity and performance screening, movement studies.
Gaming and wellness, interactive games as educational tools for wellness.
Physical (Built Environment):
Two words that are sometimes used in the design and construction of buildings that mirror wellness are wellbeing and comfort. Buildings at their worse can lead to occupants suffering SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) which was highlighted as far back as the 1970’s. The obvious areas that can impact the wellness or wellbeing of people within a building include: Thermal comfort; lighting; daylight provision; ventilation; acoustics; materials - VOC’s; etc. Less obvious areas include the actual design and the operation of the physical environment which could include: Outside views; use of colour/texture – basically interior design; occupant control; cleaning and general maintenance. Wellness needs to inclusive of all potential occupants so areas such as disabled access and support should also be included. There is even the potential of exploring Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) of teaching areas etc.
Siobhán Moane, PhD, Community Leader, firstname.lastname@example.org