Improve student health

(Edmonton) Did you know that 85 per cent of University of Alberta students are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables; 60 per cent of students are not getting enough physical activity, and nearly 60 per cent of students have experienced more-than-average or “tremendous” stress over the past year?

These are some of the findings from a campus-wide student health survey conducted in February of 2011. While these statistics are shocking, they present a opportunity for positive action. 

University Wellness Services has launched Heroes for Health, a challenge for all students, staff and faculty to come up with initiatives to improve student health at the U of A. Contestants will work in teams to develop a healthy campus idea to propose to University Wellness Services.  With a grand prize of $5,000 to be awarded to the best proposal, this is a first-ever health-promotion funding opportunity offered by University Wellness Services to individuals and students groups.

“We recognize there are already some amazing health initiatives happening on our campus,” says Jameela Murji, team leader of the Health and Wellness program of University Wellness Services. “With an incentive of $5,000, we are hoping Heroes for Health will encourage a greater capacity for our campus community to get involved and make a coordinated effort to improve the health of our students.

“We encourage all individuals with creative ideas, and student groups with health-related activities, to register by Sept. 30 and take part.”

Heroes for Health was developed in part as a response to the results of a campus wide health survey, co-ordinated by University Wellness Services and funded by the Office of the Vice-Provost and Dean of Students in February. This was a comprehensive survey addressing health, health-education and safety; alcohol, tobacco, and drugs use; sex behaviour, perceptions and contraception; weight, nutrition and exercise; mental and physical health; impediments to academic performance; and demographics. Mental health, physical activity and nutrition were some of the key student health issues indicated in the survey findings.

Through Heroes for Health, the campus community has the opportunity to take action and create change with financial and partnership support from University Wellness Services. Murji says, “We really want students and staff to take some time to think of their own U of A experience. Is there a service or activity that would have made a difference for their health? What would have helped them eat better, manage stress or allowed them to participate in more physical activity?”

University Wellness Services wants to hear what you have to say. To register, visit the Healthy Campus Challenge website at: www.ualberta.ca/healthinfo. The registration deadline is Sept. 30.