University of Wisconsin-Extension and Four UW Campuses Launch New Health and Wellness Online Degree

Aug. 23, 2011--Worksite wellness programs have continued to grow in numbers and sophistication since their formal introduction in the 1970s.  The rising cost of healthcare, sweeping national healthcare legislation and concerns about productivity have spurred demand for such programs.  As healthcare costs continue to rise, insurance companies, employers, and governments are attempting to find ways to curb costs. This is leading to positive anticipated employment growth of 18-22 percent in the health and wellness field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth has increased the need for qualified employees who can manage health and wellness programs that produce measurable bottom-line results. 

In response, the University of Wisconsin-Extension is spearheading a new online Bachelor of Science in health and wellness management that prepares students to manage wellness initiatives. UW-Extension brought together the strengths of four University of Wisconsin campuses—UW-La Crosse, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior—to create the online degree that targets adult students.  Applications for spring 2012 are being accepted at http://hwm.wisconsin.edulink.

"As more and more companies introduce smoking cessation, weight management and heart disease prevention programs, there is a growing need for qualified individuals who can oversee these programs in order to reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity and employee well-being," said David Schejbal, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.  "The Bachelor of Science in health and wellness management prepares students to fill this critical need."

Careers Benefiting from the Health and Wellness Management Degree

Wellness programs are growing according to a 2009 survey by the Integrated Benefits Institute.  Sixty eight percent of responding employers who provide health and productivity initiatives said that over the next two years, they plan to add resources to build those initiatives.

Jon Schluck, Regional Manager of CV Outreach Operations at Regions Hospital and a reviewer of the curriculum, said, "I foresee this degree and the jobs in this field growing over the next five years."

The Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness Management can be the foundation for a variety of positions including wellness manager, wellness program manager, worksite wellness coordinator, and director of sports, fitness and wellness.

Prospective students for health and wellness programs range from insurance professionals, human resources administrators, nurses and fitness coaches to health educators and promoters. 

The average salary for a wellness professional is $55,000, according to a 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.

Seven Dimensions of Wellness

The degree equips students with the skills necessary to manage health and wellness programs in the workplace using the seven dimensions of wellness.  UW-Stevens Point, which has a long history leading the wellness movement, expanded the modern concept of wellness into the seven dimensions, encompassing the social, physical, emotional, career, intellectual, environmental, and spiritual.

"An emphasis on management sets this degree apart from other health and wellness degrees," said Stafford C. Rorke, associate professor and director of the Wellness, Health Promotion, and Injury Prevention Program at the School of Health Services, Oakland University.

Courses are fully online.  To be eligible, students must have either an associate degree or 60 credits toward a bachelor's degree. The curriculum consists of 21 classes (63 credits) and covers such topics as health and medical terminology, medical ethics, information technology in healthcare, health benefit plans and providers and leadership and change management in healthcare.

For more information, visit http://HWM.wisconsin.edulink.