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WKU's Public Health Students Promote a Healthier Campus through Community Collaboration

Bowling Green, KY - Students in the Department of Public Health in the College of Health and Human Services partnered with several community agencies for Healthy Days 2017 to meet the shared goal of promoting healthier choices on campus. First, the student chapter of the Kentucky Public Health Association worked with representatives from the Community Farmers Market of Bowling Green (CFM), the BRIGHT Coalition, and the Barren River District Health Department (BRDHD) to allow students to try new vegetables and to learn more about the nutritional options available to them through the CFM.

Michelle Howell, a farmer with the Community Farmers Market, states, “Since Community Farmers Market’s establishment in 2011, we have been focused on reaching new consumers with fresh, healthy, locally grown foods.  We began accepting Big Red Dollars- and doubling them up to $10- in an effort to introduce college students to local farmers.” When asked why CFM felt it was important to be present at WKU’s annual health fair, Howell explained, “WKU students continue being an excellent resource for CFM providing interns, Dietetic students and researchers who have helped us grow the local food system.  The Healthy Days event was the perfect way to encourage students to try new vegetables like kohlrabi and rutabaga.”

Yu-Hsuan Chen, vice president of the Public Health Undergraduate-Graduate Associated Students (PHUGAS) and KPHA treasurer, has a strong research interest in nutrition. She was excited about the opportunity to volunteer with the CFM and other partner agencies, stating, “This booth introduced students to new healthy food choices. There is research stating that bringing in a new style of healthy eating may be beneficial to the students. While interacting with the visiting students, it turns out that they appreciated the new style of eating. This indicates that our plan was successful, and we can keep doing the activity.” Chen recently presented a paper about how dietary patterns change when young adults transition from high school into college life at WKU’s 47th Annual Student Research Conference.

In addition to spreading the word about healthy food choices, KPHA and PHUGAS volunteers assisted with the BRDHD/BRIGHT social media campaign and with the dissemination of the BRIGHT’s Mental Health Systems Assessment. Ashli Alford, community health planner from the BRDHD, was grateful for their assistance, stating, “The KPHA and PHUGAS volunteers did a great job communicating with students and sharing information. With their much appreciated help, BRDHD’s Facebook pages received 95 new likes and we collected 120 surveys from WKU students. We exceeded expectations for this event and are so glad to have public health students as volunteers to help us promote a healthier community.”

Finally, MPH capstone students hosted a booth as part of their semester-long project to increase community awareness of Hepatitis C risk factors and prevention techniques. Mollie Berger, capstone student and KPHA president, said that WKU students need to be concerned about Hepatitis C because of the many risk behaviors associated with this demographic. “Risk factors include needle sharing, unsafe piercing and tattoo practices, snorting of drugs, sharing of razors and toothbrushes, unsafe wound care, and even unsafe disposal of feminine hygiene products.” Berger explains, “Not to mention The Hepatitis C virus can live in dried blood for up to SIX WEEKS! Trying to educate students on the risk factors of Hepatitis C so they can protect themselves is what our day was all about.” The KNOw More Hepatitis C Kentucky project was provided to the capstone class by Kathy Sanders of the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

We in the Department of Public Health appreciate the Kentucky Department of Public Health, the Community Farmers Market, the Barren River District Health Department and the BRIGHT Coalition for giving our students the opportunity to apply their skills and to help meet the agencies’ overall goals of improved community health and wellness.

 

Contact: Zona J. Ascensio, MPH Candidate and President of the Public Health Undergraduate-Graduate Associated Students (PHUGAS)                                                                                                                 

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 Last Modified 5/2/17