Students help educate police officers about health, well-being

Wellness class provides information on coping with ‘stressful’ profession
UW-Stout students recently presented to Menomonie police officers information on wellness. The police department started a wellness program to help employees deal with stress, getting proper nutrition, physical activity and sleep.
Pam Powers | March 12, 2019

Menomonie Police Sgt. Tyler Hamann knows the stresses of responding to emergency calls, not having time to take meal breaks, getting called in early for shifts and missing planned exercise time.

“It’s a very stressful and demanding job,” said Hamann, who has been with the department since January 2014.

Tyler HamannHamann, a 2013 UW-Stout graduate in vocational rehabilitation with an emphasis in criminal justice, was asked by Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson to start a wellness program for Menomonie Police officers. Hamann immediately knew he wanted to work with UW-Stout.

Students in Assistant Professor Mike Bird’s Wellness Promotion and Programming class recently presented nutrition, physical activity and exercise, and general stress reduction and sleep health information to 16 employees from the Menomonie and UW-Stout police departments.

Bird is chair of the kinesiology and health department.

“It was well-received,” Bird said, noting the 15 students, most of them health, wellness and fitness majors, did an excellent job. “From our students’ perspective, it gives them real-life examples of presenting information and getting feedback.”

Along with information, students provided apps that officers can use to help track their health or get help with stress, including meditation.

Rebecca Dahlke, a senior from Hudson majoring in health, wellness and fitness, said her group presented the benefits of physical activity and exercise.

“We covered the basics of why our bodies need exercise and what the benefits are, such as weight loss and management and reducing the risk of many chronic diseases,” Dahlke said. “I talked about heart disease and how and why getting the recommended physical activity lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“Many people have heard that exercise lowers the risk of disease but not often why and how it does. We talked about how increasing your heart rate is healthy and how it strengthens the heart and over time makes it more efficient. Finally, we gave the officers some ideas on how to be a little more active and stretch while taking on long shifts in their patrol cars,” she said.

Healthier officers help keep the community safe. Menomonie police officers taught bicycle safety at a National Night Out event.

Dahlke said she really enjoyed the project because it gave her and other students an opportunity to present to people outside of the class. “We were able to be passionate about our topic and teach someone else about it,” Dahlke said. “So many times, I feel like we’re just preaching to the choir when we give presentations to our classmates. It showed me that every audience is different and is going to be interested in different things and have different knowledge levels.

“Being able to present to the officers reminded me that what may be basic information to me and other health majors may not be to other people. It’s important to go back to the basics to teach other people,” Dahlke said.

Megan Vanderbeek, a senior health, wellness and fitness major from Bloomington, Minn., was in the group that focused on sleep, stress and meditation. “This was a great way to help out the community and ourselves,” she said. “Many students in the class are going into health promotions, and this project was a great way to see if this would be something we would like to do in the future. This helped to increase my presentation skills, teamwork skills and how to make sure a topic is directed towards a certain group of people.”

It was a good experience to present to the officers and see them in a relaxed setting, and she found the officers were very interested in learning from the students and participating in the activities, Vanderbeek said.

Atkinson said he enjoyed the students’ presentations. “Police officers are under a tremendous amount of stress,” Atkinson said. “They deal with a lot of incidents in a day. It does wear on you physically and mentally.”Eric Atkinson

Officers may pack healthy meals but aren’t able to take breaks to eat them and resort to fast food, Atkinson said. The students helped teach the officers about better fast food options.

“We really are trying to improve the overall health of our employees,” Atkinson said. “It makes them more productive. Healthy people make for great officers that help keep the community safe. We are so grateful for the partnership we have with UW-Stout to provide some helpful tips.”

Hamann said he learned so much from the students, including how important sleep and nutrition are to overall health. “I have always been a person who says don’t eat sugar. It’s not just that. It’s balance. You have to look at the calories, the protein and carbohydrates.”

The plan is to continue to work with UW-Stout students to have refresher courses in wellness, Hamann said. “This is something we want to ingrain in our officers. We want them to live a healthier lifestyle and live longer.”

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.

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Photos

Tyler Hamann

Healthier officers help keep the community safe. Menomonie police officers taught bicycle safety at a National Night Out event.

Eric Atkinson