Final Report for the 2022-23 Peer Wellness Education
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University students are known to be physically inactive, have a poor diet, and engage in substance use, all of which correlate with a variety of chronic conditions and poor health outcomes. During this stage of life, especially as many university students are living away from home for the first time, young adults will set habits that can be potentially helpful or harmful to their health and academic success. Peer-to-peer programs and education strategies can be an effective method to reach many students on campus, foster a campus community, increase knowledge and awareness of healthy behaviours, and recognize and refer students to appropriate resources. In March 2022, a grant was awarded to pilot test a Peer Wellness Education Program at Ontario Tech University through the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Discretionary Teaching Innovation Fund. The Peer Wellness Education Program provides opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in the field of health promotion, improve their skills, meet other students, and learn health tips that can be used in their own lives. In the Spring/Summer semester, a team of 6 students created 3 display boards for social marketing campaigns and 4 sets of palm cards. A team of 11 students in the Fall semester and 15 students in the Winter semester worked together to implement the social marketing campaigns and distribute the resources created in the Spring/Summer semester. Throughout the year, team members contributed over 370 hours to implement various display booths, health promotion events, and workshops organized by the Peer Wellness Education Program and Ontario Tech Health Promotion. The Peer Wellness Education team volunteered at over 77 health promoting events, interacted with over 2080 students, and disseminated over 4450 health promotion resources. The team also created social media posts on Instagram to promote the program, created blog posts for the Ontario Tech Digital Community, and created two additional display boards during this time. Although few students could directly name the Peer Wellness Education team or Ontario Tech Health Promotion as a program or service on campus without prompting during intercept interviews, the majority of surveyed students had seen or heard about a health promotion activity. Team members reported an increase in knowledge of health promotion concepts and an increase in skills related to engaging students in conversations about their health and creating informative and appealing health education resources after volunteering with the Peer Wellness Education team. The Peer Wellness Education pilot project was very successful. A large volunteer team and collaborations with Athletics and Recreation and Student Life maximized the reach and engagement with students. Students seemed to be excited to be on campus again and readily engaged in conversations with student volunteers. The Peer Wellness Education Program will maintain the momentum achieved over the past year and continue programming into the 2023-24 academic year. Over the next year, the team will create additional social marketing campaigns, create a social media plan, and identify a central space for storing Health Promotion materials.
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