Editor’s Note: This story was written by Morgan Prokosch.
The new Health Promotions Club starting on campus aims to educate students about health and help them lead healthier lifestyles. “We really want to promote awareness [of] health and to help people implement it into their daily lives,” says Rebecca Turner, the vice president of the club.
Molly Cary, the president of the club, said that the current plan is to hold a variety of events that promote wellness in varying ways, such as stress management, eating habits, exercise, and education about smoking and vaping.
Cary said that one type of regular event that the club officers are thinking about hosting is discussion night, where students can come together and talk about various health concerns. Sometimes, experts in the topic might be brought in for the discussions, such as a counselor for a discussion about mental health. Cary said that the experts would not be there to lecture, but to “help provide a voice of professional reason and their experience.”
Other activities that the club officers are thinking about hosting are dorm cooking, art, DIY self-care, various fitness events, and outdoor activities such as kayaking and hiking. “Generally, everything we are doing is trending towards helping students find … resources to help them be healthy mentally and physically,” Cary said.
Cary said that through these activities, the club hopes to help students integrate the healthy habits they learn into their lives by connecting them with resources available on campus that make it easier to do so. For example, she said, if a student comes to a yoga session with the Health Promotions Club and learns that yoga isn’t intimidating and can be beneficial, the Health Promotions Club can direct them to the campus Yoga Club.
Health Promotions Club officers also want to help create these resources if they don’t exist. For example, Cary said that they are considering putting a “calm room” on campus that would feature things such as an aromatherapy diffuser and calming music. It would be a place where people can go to if they are stressed or want a quiet place to do any quiet activity such as schoolwork, prayer, or meditation.
The club is all about “trying to make it available to students and show them what resources they already have on campus, establish resources that aren’t there, and then … put together groups that students can be a part of to really address these goals,” Cary said.
Christina Uribe Nitti, the director of health services at Saint Mary’s who also serves as the advisor of the Health Promotions Club, thinks that health education is especially important on a college campus. “Within this community, we are working with students who are at a very transitional point in their lives, and so they are going from being dependent on parents and parents managing all of that to hey, when I graduate I am responsible for my health,” Uribe Nitti said. She said that this club can help provide students with this kind of beneficial information.
Uribe Nitti also said the club can help promote and gain support for structural changes on campus to help make it easier for students to make healthy decisions. “Sometimes it’s [about] creating an environment where people don’t really have to necessarily think about taking active steps to do healthy things, but just that the environment is set up in a way that promotes that,” she said.
One such structural change could concern smoking and vaping. Uribe Nitti said that a lot of college campuses are smoke-free. Saint Mary’s currently isn’t, but this is a topic that the club officers are exploring. Uribe Nitti was surprised that Saint Mary’s isn’t a smoke-free, tobacco-free campus when she first came. She said, “I think it should be, and I know that the students have a lot of interest in that topic, too.”
Uribe Nitti said that a lot of bigger colleges have student workers and a director of health promotion to educate students about health, but smaller schools don’t necessarily have funding for that. She said she got the idea to start the Health Promotions Club when she attended a meeting with other college health educators and learned that a lot of small schools often start student-led clubs to fulfill this role.
The club officers think anyone can benefit from the Health Promotions Club and encourage everyone to get involved with club activities. “I hope the whole campus can get involved,” Cary said.
Turner echoed similar sentiments and said that they hope to address and provide resources for many different topics that can help everyone on campus regarding any area of their health that they struggle with. “People may be coming for different reasons. … We want to be available to everyone and to try different things that will help different people in different areas of their life,” Turner said.
Students who are interested in the Health Promotions Club should look out for information about upcoming events or contact any of the officers or Uribe Nitti to learn more.