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Monday 8 December 2014

Catching up with Health Promotion and Fitness graduate Mark Jordan

We caught up with Mark Jordan, who is a post graduate student here at Southampton Solent University. Mark tells us what it was like being at Solent as an undergraduate and about his new adventure promoting healthily living in Australia.

What is your Solent degree in?

The undergraduate degree I studied was BA (Hons) Health Promotion and Fitness and I am just putting the finishing touches to my Masters in Sport Development.

Whilst studying for your Masters, you worked for Solent Health Spark (SHS). Can you tell us about your “Southampton Solent University journey”?

I was first aware of SHS during my 2nd year of my undergraduate degree (2010) when I heard Chris Dunn (Health Promotion Manager) deliver a presentation as part of the “Physical Activity and Public Health Relations Unit”. An element of this Unit was to undertake a 20 hour placement and I contacted Chris to express my interest. Anything from labelling pedometers to transporting bikes around to events gave me an insight into the work that goes in to delivering such an initiative.

Believe it or not I actually enjoyed these tasks especially being part of the team and in my 3rd year I began to help out at more events on a part-time employment basis. I also linked this into my undergraduate dissertation as SHS allowed me to set up and deliver a point of choice stair-climbing intervention in the Reginald Mitchell (RM) building. SHS helped produce the back up and marketing material for this trial which led to an increase of 11% in stair use, some of which continues to this day. Upon completion of my 3rd year, SHS offered a Health Promotion Intern for the 2012 / 2013 academic year to design and deliver a student health promotion programme.

I was successful in my application and over the course of the 12 month engaged with over 1,000 students to improve their health and wellbeing. The role was then extended, and brought within the University’s Strategic Plan to incorporate student experience into the role. This involved delivering and managing a peer to peer lead student health promotion programme for the students of Southampton Solent University, much like the successful coaching programme lead by Daniel Czaicki and co! After 12 months in this role, and after completion of my MA, I was ready for pastures new.

Mark Jordan

You are currently working in the same field at Sydney University. Can you let us know more about this?

I made contact with, my now colleague, Elly from Healthy Sydney University (HSU) about 6 months ago and we discussed the possible implementation of a “sitting less toolkit”. This tool kit aims to raise awareness of the effects prolonged bouts of sedentary behaviour can have on an individual. I also mentioned that I was planning to come to Sydney with a working holiday visa around October time. After some early discussions plus a presentation about the health and wellbeing programme at Southampton Solent University, I have been taken on a project taking 3 days a week. This project involves researching the possible development of a similar network to the Healthy Universities Approach UK across Australia and New Zealand.

I am therefore tasked with finding out what is going on and linking in with all these universities. I am finding it fascinating because it is giving me insights into the different initiatives and techniques used to engage with both staff and students across the University setting. It has also drastically improved my Excel skills as I have one very large spread sheet to record all data!

On top of this I also help out and attend regular HSU meetings to help steer and shape the programme within the different working groups; “Embedding, Mental Wellbeing, Eat Better and Move More, Sit Less”.

How crucial was the experience you got working for Solent Health Spark to get this role?

That experience was crucial as it gave me a sound knowledge base and an understanding of workplace health and wellbeing. The team also allowed me to explore my own professional interests stemming from my undergraduate dissertation I mentioned. In regards to my new role, SHS has enabled me to understand what it takes to engage with a University community, a very diverse one within a challenging environment. One thing that is very apparent is the difference in size between the two Universities. SSU has around 18,000 students split into 2 campuses whereas US has over 50,000 students divided between 1 main campus and 10 smaller satellites.

What does Sydney University do to improve the health and well-being of it’s for staff and students?

HSU aims at a holistic approach to health and well-being by engaging with both staff and students. Sydney University has developed topic lead working groups which bring together academics and support staff from different faculties and departments. This approach is very positive in engaging with such a large community like US.

Mark on a boat in Sydney.

Do you see any potential links that can be created between Southampton Solent University and Sydney University?

There is definite scope for setting up some links; I have already talked with Chris about the possibility. There may even be a conference held here for Universities worldwide – so watch this space!

From the UK “Aussies” are perceived as very sporty and healthy. What can you really teach them in terms of health and well-being?

My perception was the same, reinforced by walking through the parks and the CBD of Sydney. The green spaces in Sydney are filled with exercise stations and running in the City is relatively easy. However the national health statistics paint a very different picture. 62.8% of Australians ages 18 and over are either overweight or obese (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012), similar to the UK position (NHS, 2009). Well apart from adding skills in football / soccer and encouraging everybody to utilise the open spaces that abound, I can only try and help deliver the HSU strategic objectives to the best of my ability!

What is the most amazing thing you have done since you arrived in Australia?

En route to Australia I stopped in Dubai where I jumped out of a plane at 13,000ft one of the most exciting things I have ever done. I have just been engaging with the Sydney lifestyle; regular trips to Bondi, several pints or ‘schooners’ in Darling Harbour, and generally exploring the city! We also have plans to go to the Blue Mountains in the New Year!!

Do you still manage to follow Team Solent FC being thousands of miles away from home?

I do indeed, the social media platforms Sport Solent now use makes things a lot easier and I am also in regular contact with some of the boys so they fill me in! Especially as I heard that there was a live stream of the AFC Bournemouth game, I got up at 5am to watch the game! They are obviously missing me in the team now they are sat at the top of the table! I’m looking forward to having my Wessex Division 1 Winners medal sent to me! My football / soccer career is continuing here, I have just signed for Rydalmere Lions FC in the NSW State Division 1 League.