Student peers get innovative with health education

The Student Health Center’s Department of Health Promotion and Wellness was recognized by the BACCHUS Network for its efforts in peer health education. The Student Health Center is operated by the College.  

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The BACCHUS Network is a university and community-based network that focuses on health and safety initiatives, including promoting healthy and safe lifestyle decisions regarding alcohol abuse, tobacco use, illegal drug use, unhealthy sexual practices and other high-risk behaviors. The network includes thousands of student leaders and advisors on more than 320 college campuses in North America.

The department’s Health Hut was recognized with the Outstanding Prevention Programming Award, which is given to only three programs based on the number of students the program reaches, the health topics it covers and its unique method of peer education. The award was presented late last year at the BACCHUS Network’s General Assembly, a national conference.

The Health Hut is a health education outreach program that provides students with prevention and intervention activities through daily outreach focused on healthy living. The hut is strategically placed at different locations on campus five days a week, 46 hours per week, and it is staffed by 41 student interns who cover a different health topic each week with an activity, game or handout. In spring 2013, the Health Hut was visited by more than 12,000 students.

The Health Hut is an initiative of Project Health, a University of Alabama student organization housed in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness that provides the Capstone with a variety of programs aimed at increasing healthy behaviors among college students. Project Health is supervised by Jessica Vickery, MPH, CHES, an assistant director of Health Education and Promotion. Project Health also serves as a liaison between the Student Health Center and the University.

At the BACCHUS Network’s regional conference in March, Project Health’s peer health education group was selected as the most outstanding group in the region with the Outstanding Affiliate Award. The group is comprised of over 90 UA students and includes Health Hut interns, Health Ambassadors and GAMMA delegates.

The students receive training each semester and on a weekly basis about various health topics, communication, outreach and programming. This year, the Health Ambassadors developed health education programs for the University’s residence halls and continue to manage an outreach event called “Healthy Hump Day,” which is held every Wednesday at the Ferguson Student Center and focuses on national health awareness weeks and months.

In addition to the Outstanding Affliate Award, Project Health was selected for three additional awards at the regional conference in March. Kristy Sillay was selected as Outstanding Alumni. She served as a GAMMA delegate in 2010 and provided peer health education to the Greek community and the University campus. She joined Health Hut in 2011 and is now serving as a graduate assistant in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness working with Project Health while she pursues a master’s degree in health sciences.

Sarah Chaffee, who serves as a Health Hut intern and the Project Health vice president for programming, was selected as Outstanding Student.

Vickery, advisor of the Health Hut since 2011 and the Health Ambassadors since 2012, was selected as Outstanding Advisor. She was also selected as the Alabama State Coordinator for the BACCHUS Network, responsible for connecting with other Alabama university and college peer health education groups to expand the network.

“Developing relationships with other schools allows us to look at new ways to provide our campus with peer health education as well as see what health issues different campuses are facing and how we can effectively tackle them,” Vickery says. “Peer health education is so important for our campus because it allows us to reach out to more students and expand our impact.”

Meanwhile, a new initiative of Project Health, the Swagon, recently received the Capstone Innovation Award at the 2013 SOURCE Awards. While getting a ride to class in the Student Health Center’s GEM Car, students are asked trivia questions about health topics in order to earn “swag.” SOURCE Awards recognize university student organizations.