Ohio University

New student public health initiative to focus on ‘Keeping Bobcats Safe’

Published: March 31, 2021 Author: Staff reports

A team of students who are passionate about health education are striking up conversations around campus in an effort to help more OHIO students understand healthy behaviors that can help end the pandemic.

Doing Our Part: Keeping Bobcats Safe is a new peer health initiative led by Bobcat Health Ambassadors – OHIO students who are trained public health educators.

“I’ve been wanting to expand our current operations from tabling and programming to being out on campus and talking with students,” said Wes Bonadio, director of well-being and recreation at OHIO, who advises the peer health educators. “This program is the perfect opportunity to get out on campus and mobilize our engagement efforts."

OHIO COVID Operations staff, under the direction of Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, worked with Bonadio and a group of peer health educators to identify specific things students can do to help stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, in hopes of a more normal fall.

“We all hope for a fall semester that includes the things we love,” Ice said. “Getting there will require that we all do what we can to stop the spread now.”

Nine ambassadors will be working in pairs around campus, engaging students in conversation about specific actions they can take to help end the pandemic. The ambassadors also want to hear from students about their experiences, frustrations, questions and hopes during this challenging time.

“I’m really excited because we already have a group prepared to do this type of work,” said Rachel Pinney, a graduate special education student in the Patton College of Education. "We are ready to expand our reach with such an important public health topic.”

The group Pinney is referring to is comprised of students from POWER GAMMA and Better Bystanders, two peer health education organizations for students who are trained advocates on health-related issues. They regularly provide programming on health and lifestyle issues facing college students.

Pinney has been a licensed peer health educator at OHIO since her freshman year, when she was so inspired by the CHOICES program that she participated in as part of her Learning Community. CHOICES provides students information about consent, alcohol and bystander intervention. 

“I realized how much I hadn’t learned at my high school about basic health education, and I was inspired to get involved. I took a course, got certified and have been doing peer health education ever since,” Pinney said.

The Ambassadors are well-versed in topics including how and where to get vaccinated, how to socialize safely, how to protect others after getting vaccinated, how to have tough conversations with friends about COVID-19, and more. Ambassadors will thank those who share their time in conversation with a voucher for a free drink at The Front Room.

The Bobcat Health Ambassadors program is a collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs and COVID Operations.