UCSB Student Health hopes to give students an ounce of prevention in return for the usual pound of cure with its Wellness Center (WellCen) program, slated to begin Fall 2006.

The incentive-based program promotes physical and mental fitness by encouraging students to attend health-focused campus locations, like the Rec Cen or Counseling Services. Mark Shishim, a Student Health educator said that, for each visit, students will receive a stamp in their “passports” that can then be used to enter prize raffles for items such as an Apple iPod.

Shishim said the WellCen does not currently have an official on-campus location, but the program may eventually set up an office in the UCen.

Several colleges across the country already have “wellness centers,” which focus strictly on fitness or physical health education, Shishim said. However, he said Student Health hopes to make the UCSB model much more encompassing.

“It’s giving attention to all dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational and environmental [health],” Shishim said. “It’s about balance.”

Director of Health Education Sabina White said the WellCen, which is based on a UC San Francisco program, is a preventative measure against students’ health problems. By keeping their bodies fit with sports or other forms of exercise, keeping their minds stimulated and keeping themselves emotionally fulfilled, students can avoid large medical bills – often the end result of years of inactivity and mental stress.

“Reactive services are the most expensive and serve the least students,” White said. “The WellCen will be the least expensive and serve the most students.”

Put more plainly, the program will hopefully keep patients out of the doctor’s office, Shishim said. “We care about your health before you get sick.”

Shishim said the WellCen will offer courses for credit on ways students can modify their unhealthy routines, like bad eating habits.

“We want actual services – activities – versus theories and lists on websites,” Shishim said.

White said the courses will train students to become more responsible about maintaining their health, as well as all other avenues of their life requiring restraint in behavior.

“College-age [people] have a developmental stage just like any other age,” White said. “They’re learning how to be an adult.”

After its initial implementation on the campus, Shishim said he would like to see the program spread into Isla Vista. To do this, he hopes to receive the financial support of corporations and small businesses.

“Since this is such a broad field, we’re optimistic about not having a problem getting incentives and sponsorships,” Shishim said.

Shishim said Student Health will also look to garner additional support from other departments such as Campus Learning Assistance Services, the Educational Opportunity Program, the Office of Student Life and Associated Students. These campus organizations can help students focus on all aspects of their health.

As part of the program’s development stage, Student Health recently created student focus groups from which to receive feedback. The Wellness Floor of Santa Rosa Hall hosted one of these groups.

Victor Arias, an undeclared freshman living on the wellness floor, said he supported the new program.

“It will be awesome,” Arias said. “It’ll help people stay fit and keep the ‘freshmen 15’ away.”