The Student Health Ambassadors are back on campuses throughout Western North Carolina this fall, in an initiative led by UNC Asheville, with support from Dogwood Health Trust.

A $486,524 grant from Dogwood Health Trust will fund Student Health Ambassador positions at six colleges and universities in Western North Carolina, including Brevard College, Mars Hill University, Montreat College, Warren Wilson College and Western Carolina University, in addition to the flagship program at UNC Asheville.

Up to 50 students will be employed in the program for the 2021-22 year, with project management in partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC).

In the collaborative pilot program year, the SHAs centered on peer-led communication and support to address the urgent need to reduce infections and encourage well-being during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are thrilled to support the continuation of this work because we know that peer-to-peer education is one of the best ways to influence behavior change,” said Dr. Susan Mims, interim CEO of Dogwood Health Trust.

The work also earned national attention with a paper published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, contributions to a toolkit in development by the American College Health Association, and technical assistance to local and national institutions of higher education interested in creating their own programs.

“Given the success of this program and building on the momentum from last year’s accomplishments, this expansion will support the achievement of each individual’s full health potential, build resilience, and support well-being among students, employees, and their communities in WNC,” said Amy Lanou, professor of health and wellness and executive director of the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville.

The student teams work locally on their campus and collaboratively, sharing best practices, focusing across four counties: Jackson, Madison, Transylvania, and Buncombe counties — and support 22,000 students and 4,000 employees.

For more information about the Student Health Ambassador program, visit https://coronavirus.unca.edu/resources/student-health-ambassadors/.

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