Students step up for health and wellness

(Edmonton) A healthy movement is afoot on campus for students, by students. The Health and Wellness Movement, a University of Alberta Students’ Union group, has proclaimed March 28–April 1 as Health Week on campus.  

A few of the highlights include opening ceremonies featuring provincial health minister Gene Zwozdesky, an Iron Chef-style cooking competition at Lister Centre to encourage healthy eating and a video game dance-off competition.

Movement president and founding member Alexei Mokhammad says the group is focused on three key areas physical, mental and nutritional health. “We want to make a difference on campus. It’s about us as students trying to affect the behaviour of other students,” he says.

Mokhammand says he and fellow members saw the need for the group after watching their peers deal with stress and make poor nutrition choices.

Founded just over a year go by a close-knit group of friends in the Faculty of Science, the group now boasts more than 150 members from all over campus. Several of the group’s members, including Mokhammad, aspire to careers in the health-care industry and want to make a difference in the lives of their peers.

One of their most recent events included the operation of a fruit stand, where members sold fruit at discounted prices to students to encourage healthy eating.

Mokhammad says the response from students has been fantastic. “We’ve received really positive feedback and it has resulted in our membership growing. Our group is thrilled reach students with the message of the importance of healthy living.”

More recently the group has taken part in “Take the Stairs” campaign to encourage people to get moving.

“University is the place where habits are formed, and we are encouraging people to form good healthy habits, to spread the message about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and the future impacts of the health-care system,” said Mokhammad.

Heidi Bates, registered dietician and director of the integrated dietetic internship at the U of A, is delighted to see such activities taking place. “The health-care system requires an interdisciplinary approach and it’s fantastic to see the students adopt that. Health and well-being is everyone’s business; we work in groups and teams and campus and it’s incumbent of all us to reach out help,” said Bates.

The group has also teamed up with the Medical Students Association to cross-promote the week’s events and is using the opening ceremonies as a joint kick off. The medical students are also running events concurrently during their own Mental Health Awareness week.