For more than a year, a health promotion program at several WNC colleges and universities has bolstered pandemic-weary campuses, with dozens of students working to help ease the lingering effects of COVID-19. And in recent months, after drawing considerable attention and grant funding, the Student Health Ambassador initiative has broadened its outreach off campus.
The idea is to not only spread best practices for mitigating the spread of the coronavirus but also “support the achievement of each individual’s full health potential, build resilience, and support well-being among students, employees, and their communities,” says Amy Lanou, executive director of the NC Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville, which spearheaded the program last year.
Funded by a nearly $490,000 grant from the private foundation Dogwood Health Trust, the initiative is recruiting as many as 50 students to serve as public health ambassadors at six campuses during the 2021-22 school year. In addition to UNCA, it involves Brevard College, Mars Hill University, Montreat College, Warren Wilson College, and Western Carolina University.
The program uses peer support, information sharing, and other outreach to advance student health. Off campus, efforts to address health disparities extended to communities within a 50-mile or so radius, spreading its impact even further.