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5 questions for JCSU Wellness Director Victor Romano
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As wellness director at the school, part of Victor Romano’s job is to manage the JCSU HealthPlex, a 5,700-square-foot facility housing the Center for Applied Health Research, the JCSU Wellness Department, a pool, cardio and strength equipment and more. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins)

Working to make lives healthier

As wellness director at Johnson C. Smith, part of Victor Romano’s job is to manage the school's HealthPlex, a 5,700-square-foot facility housing the Center for Applied Health Research, the JCSU Wellness Department, a pool, cardio and strength equipment and more.

The center opened in Oct. 2012 with the stated goal of improving the health of JCSU students, faculty and staff but also the surrounding community.

With a doctor’s referral, residents in the northwest corridor can take part in health seminars, cooking demonstrations, weight therapy, weight management, exercise prescription, health coaching, health screening and a host of preventative measures.

The HealthPlex so far has served about 800 community members and recently added an additional 400, Romano said.

For nearly 12 years, Victor Romano has worked in various aspects of the health care industry, much of that time devising services for individuals and families most in need. He’s now the wellness director at Johnson C. Smith University.

He recently completed a book titled Creating a Culture of Wellness: A Guide to a Happier and Healthier Lifestyle. Romano said the book is the first in what he hopes will be an eight-part series.

Unlike some authors who focus chiefly on diet and exercise, Romano focuses on seven dimensions of wellness -- emotional, environmental, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual -- that he says contribute to total wellbeing.

Qcitymetro recently met with Romano do discuss his book. The Q&A below, which was edited for brevity and clarity, is based on that interview.

Q. What led you to write this book?

Writing the book came about because reading and trying to search out, trying to provide educational material to people out there, was hard. I wanted to educate people on the full wellness aspect of things. You hear a lot of spirit, mind and body, but those are just three dimensions out of another four dimension that you’re completely missing.

This book isn’t focusing on disease or disorder. This is not your diet book. It’s not your exercise book. It’s not a nutrition book. It’s telling you about the seven dimensions of wellness and how you can improve yourself within each dimension. This book talks about of a lot of the small things that people forget about that do affect your health.

Q. Let’s talk first about the emotional dimension of health.

Emotional wellness is a big concept that most people don’t want to talk about. Everybody thinks that should be internalized, especially males. We don’t want to talk about all the emotional stuff that’s associated with our health. What we start seeing is that a lot of that gets carried over to when we get older.

You’ve got people internalizing a lot of their feelings, not being able to understand or express their emotions properly. That’s why we start seeing a lot of rage issues. We start seeing a lot of closure, people become very intransigent when they don’t need to be. Emotional wellness is really talking about how can you really express yourself in a safe and effective way that you feel comfortable doing?

Q. What about the social dimension?

A lot of it is who you hang around with, where you find your niche, where you find your part in life, not just within your social group but in your work environment, your church environment, your friendships, your colleagues. It expands upon literally every relationship you have. How does it affect you and how can you improve upon those relationships? Are those relationships helpful, or are they not?

Q. Let’s take one more – spiritual.

The spiritual talks not just about religion, but how you feel inside – what drives you, what’s your purpose? What’s the reason for what you want to do in your life and how you want to live it? Spiritual looks beyond just the religious aspect. We know that religion drives a lot of those things, but it’s not determining all of it. There’s a lot more to our spiritual makeup than religion. So it focuses on what is our social purpose, what do we value intrinsically. It helps you self-discover a little bit.

Q. Some HBCU’s are starting to be more intentional in their focus on student health. Spelman College comes to mind with its focus on obesity. How healthy is the Johnson C. Smith campus?

We just did an analysis of the campus, and actually it mimics that of the normal black population in the community. We’re not any unhealthier, and we’re not any healthier, than the rest of them. It’s borderline national average – blood pressure is slightly high, exercise levels are really low, eating habits are bad. So there are a lot of little things. Nothing really stuck out other than just cardiovascular disease warnings. The older population, ages 40 to 60, we found a lot of people already had signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

The younger population was showing pre-symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The younger population was showing a lot of symptoms that they didn’t even now where symptoms, like when you’re exercising and you find that you’re getting tired quickly. Are you finding that you’re having an erratic heartbeat? When you stand up too quickly, do you fell like you’re going to fall right back down? So we were able to identify a lot of young people and give them a heads-up.

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September 1, 2015
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