UNC Asheville Student Health Ambassadors, in partnership with ambassador programs at five universities across Western North Carolina and supported by MAHEC, have earned second place from the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities in a recent competition and will be recognized during a virtual summit April 21-22. The consortium connects health and wellness professionals from academic institutions in pursuit of healthier campuses by sharing best practices and to set national standards. The Student Health Ambassadors have worked throughout the academic year encouraging community expectations during COVID.
“This collaboration has supported a rapid and successful COVID-19 mitigation strategy with infection rates lower than regional or statewide ones while students continue living and learning on their campuses,” said Amy Joy Lanou, professor of health and wellness and executive director of the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville. “Student-driven peer education and support are the key to our success.”
The Student Health Ambassadors at UNC Asheville were funded in fall 2020 through an NC Policy Collaboratory Grant, which also funded Student Health Ambassador positions at Western Carolina University. The work was extended to Brevard College, Mars Hill University, Montreat College and Warren Wilson College through a partnership with MAHEC and collectively reached 22,000 college students through 93 positions, 45 of which were at UNC Asheville.
“This ambassador initiative has gained such momentum in large part from the partnerships between all six institutions,” said Kol Gold-Leighton, the Back to College Health Ambassador project coordinator at MAHEC.
A spring 2021 grant from MAHEC funds 20 Student Health Ambassadors at UNC Asheville, and their work has been instrumental in the success of UNC Asheville’s response to COVID-19. This semester, they have planned and implemented virtual panels, including one specific to vaccine questions; supported events such as the vaccine clinic and blood drives; completed 16 publications and 260 hours of training; delivered more than 200 meals to students in quarantine or isolation; and held over 600 support hours for the UNC Asheville campus community.
For more information, visit https://coronavirus.unca.edu/resources/student-health-ambassadors/ or follow the UNC Asheville Student Health Ambassadors at https://www.instagram.com/unca_sha/.