‘Making wellness an American core value’

Anschutz Health and Wellness Center takes on health promotion, disease prevention

Wellness Center

A new world-class model for healthier living has been built on the Anschutz Medical Campus, and officials, benefactors and dignitaries gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

"We want to be the beacon that makes this campus, this community and this state the epicenter for promoting wellness," said James O. Hill, Ph.D., executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. "This whole center will be devoted to making wellness an American core value."

The gathering for the ribbon cutting and reception also included Philip and Nancy Anschutz; Ted Harms, executive director of The Anschutz Foundation; Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, and his wife, Marcy; Lilly Marks, vice president for Health Affairs University of Colorado and executive vice chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus; Richard Krugman, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; Don Elliman, interim chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus; and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Officials who spoke during the ceremony remarked on how the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center adds another dimension -- one that focuses on disease prevention -- to a campus that already is a national leader in health care research, education and clinical care.

Hickenlooper said one of the state's top priorities should be preventable health issues as Colorado spends $1.6 billion a year on obesity. "That's money we could be putting to better uses," he said.

Benson noted that obesity rates in America are expected to climb from today's 30 percent to 42 percent by 2030. "I say right here, the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, is the very beginning of getting this stopped and getting this changed in Colorado. They will be doing great things (here) in solving the problems that face us and working on nutrition, exercise and lifestyles."

The Anschutz Foundation was the leading contributor to the Gold LEED Certified Building, which includes state-of-the-art fitness equipment, weight management and nutrition programs, research labs and classes and lessons on healthy living. Harms said the foundation is committed to serving Colorado and society in general, as evidenced by its investment in the entire Anschutz Medical Campus.

"When the concept of the Wellness Center came up, I think we looked at it immediately and said the combination of best-in-class research, translating that into real programs, educating and training people to do it, developing public policies, programs and products and finally making it a programmatic hub, all make this a perfect place to go and that's why we're stepping up," Harms said.

Marks said the center's innovative research and programs "will be an emerging leadership role for the University of Colorado in another dimension of American health care." Elliman thanked Marks and Hill for the countless hours they and others devoted to getting the center launched and noted that it represents the latest step in the momentum of the Anschutz Medical Campus. "It's going to be a beacon of hope for the shift of focus from strictly care to prevention in this country," he said.

Krugman explained how he was involved in recruiting Hill, a national leader in obesity research, to the university in the early 1990s. Through Hill's vision, along with the support of The Anschutz Foundation and the university chancellor, the seeds of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center were planted. "They took it seriously and supported us and, along with the resources that a number of departments and the School of Medicine and the university have all put together, what we're celebrating here today is happening," Krugman said. "I thank everyone who contributed to that."

Hill said the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center will be a leader in achieving goal No. 1: "We'll be the first state to reduce obesity rates. I think our goal should be, and I hope our partners will join us, that by 2022 we will have reduced obesity in Colorado by 10 percent," he said. "This has to be the wellest campus and I think metro Denver has to be the wellest community, and Colorado the wellest state. We want to be the beacon."

After the ribbon cutting, the hundreds of attendees gathered on the Nu Sigma Nu Green Roof for a cocktail reception, highlighted by appearances by Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. The Green Roof will allow the Center to grow its own fresh, healthy produce and is possible thanks to a donation of $650,000 from a donor advised fund established by the Nu Sigma Nu medical fraternity and held at Community First Foundation.

Also highlighted during the celebration, which included tours of the facility, were works by six top public artists in the region and country. Also, thanks to a generous donation, the center purchased art for the clinic area; 13 artists created one-of-a-kind designs for the carefully selected collection.