COVID-19 presents unique challenges for education institutions as they are opening all across the U.S. Stony Brook University’s Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), Protect yOUR Health campaign is an initiative to bring the student community together by preventing the spread of the virus. With a combination of virtual workshops and social media contests, the Protect yOUR Health campaign is an opportunity for students to learn about COVID-19 preventative measures and safe socializing tips while adding their voice to raise awareness on social media.
COVID-19 prevention workshop is one of the five-part series to earn a Health Hero Certificate. These workshops are led by health peer educators as well as Kerri Mahoney, Assistant Director of the CPO. Using a discussion-based model, each session goes over a different topic including COVID-19 prevention, STD prevention, flu prevention, nutrition and Student Health Services.
“In the first five weeks we have trained about 400 students in coronavirus prevention,” Mahoney explains. “For the most part, everyone has been very receptive of the module. One of the parts I find students enjoy the most is debunking myths about the virus.” These myths include young people not being affected by the virus or equating it to the flu.
While students learn about the virus, they are also given the space to discuss their own experiences in the pandemic.
Despite being offered exclusively online, the initiative has proved to be helpful for students. Smita Das, Director of the CPO, said, “We have seen a consistent engagement in students for our programming. If you can attend a training session with the click of a button without having to walk to the training location in the snow or rain, students are more inclined to attend. Also, it allows our commuters and remote students to attend workshops at times that were not feasible in person.” In addition, CPO is offering some training early morning (6 am) or late at night (9 pm) to capture students in international locations or students with busy work/academic schedules.
Students who complete all five workshops receive a Health Hero Award at the Upstander Gala hosted in the spring semester.
Protect yOUR Health targets other platforms students love: social media and giveaways. The #SBUProtectyOURHealth social media contest encourages students to submit a video, poem or artwork to show how they are protecting themselves and others for a chance to win Apple AirPods. The Wellness Wednesday Giveaway further allows students to raise awareness by submitting a picture or a video showing how they are engaging with following COVID-19 prevention measures for a chance to win a folding chair. Mahoney adds, “We wanted students to utilize their own creative skills to help us spread this message of practicing prevention measures during the pandemic.”
Students can submit their work with the hashtag #SBUProtectYourHealth on Instagram and see how other students have contributed to the digital wall. Kenny Desai ’22, an international student and first winner of the contest, said, “I am currently in India attending classes online, and I thought this would make me feel more connected to the campus. This was also an amazing opportunity for me to think outside the box and come up with some illustrations to motivate Seawolves to care for each other, wear a mask and practice social distancing.”
Das adds, “Our students are doing a marvelous job. We, as a community, are working together to keep the campus open and keep ourselves safe and to really move forward.”