University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Merberg takes ‘whole-health' approach

Bob Merberg

Wellness, says Bob Merberg, is about much more than the absence of disease or achieving high-level fitness. It's about providing people with the tools they need to live at an optimum level in all dimensions of their life—physical health, relationships, sense of well-being, and work environment, to name a few. As the coordinator of employee wellness in the Benefits Office, Merberg says he'll take this "whole-health approach" to develop a worksite wellness program at the University and to identify ways to help faculty and staff feel their best.

"The University supports a healthy workforce. As part of that support, we plan to make comprehensive, ongoing programs available to everyone and to offer a high level of personal service," says Merberg, who has worked in the health and wellness field for more than 15 years and is the author of The Health Seeker's Handbook: Revolutionary Advice on How to Shape Up, Trim Down, and Chill Out . . . from America's #1 Health Coach.

Since joining the Benefits Office in May, Merberg has spent the last few months conducting needs assessments and planning programs in conjunction with a multidisciplinary committee that includes representatives from Strong EAP, Facilities, Human Resources, the Medical Center Fitness and Wellness Center, The School of Nursing, and the Center for Rochester's Health.

Developing a worksite wellness program, says Charles Murphy, associate vice president for Human Resources, is part of an ongoing effort to foster a work environment that supports health and well-being. "We see wellness as an ‘investment' in our employees and one element of a broad focus on improving and maintaining employee health. By making the transition to self-insurance for University health plans, we have the ability to tailor-make programs that are responsive to the specific needs of faculty and staff. We will work to integrate wellness with the health plans and other initiatives, such as the Return to Work program, to ensure employees have access to a wide range of effective services," adds Murphy.

While program planning is in the early stages, Merberg anticipates organizing walking groups and targeting a wide range of health issues, such as stress management, smoking cessation, high blood pressure and cholesterol, nutrition, and sedentary lifestyle, through workshops, interactive Web-based programs, and one-on-one interventions. He currently is organizing a team of "champions" within departments or divisions on all campuses and hopes to call on those employees to conduct outreach. "I see the champions as liaisons between their coworkers and the wellness program," he adds.

In addition to developing new programming, Merberg notes that he expects to promote resources already in place at the Medical Center, School of Nursing, and in other divisions. "Where there's a need and an interest on the part of program administrators, we'd hope to support and integrate with existing programs. There is so much potential here. With the resources available to us, the expertise, and the commitment, the University is really primed to do a groundbreaking program in wellness."

Those who want more information about the University's wellness program can contact Merberg at

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