A Health Advocate is a student appointed as a health resource in his or her residence hall or apartment community, fraternity, or sorority. Health Advocates attend weekly classes at the student health service, where they are specially trained to respond to common health-related issues. They share information and prevention strategies with other students in their hall or house and also refer students to other health resources on campus.
As part of their training, Health Advocates receive first aid and CPR certification and are offered the opportunity to earn two credits each semester through the School of Public Health.
Health Advocates distribute:
- Cold and cough medicine and cough drops
- Ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Band-aids and gauze
- Condoms, dental dams, and personal lubricant
- Emergency pregnancy tests
Health Advocates also work on health promotion projects such as:
- Starting a hall fitness club
- Designing a wellness website
- Developing a mental health survey
- Creating a campaign to encourage students to eat breakfast
- Addressing campus alcohol policies
According to a Star Tribune interview with David Golden, Director of Marketing, Public Health, and New Programs at Boynton Health Service on the University of Minnesota campus, each year the program handles one or two "close calls," such as severe alcohol poisoning or a breathing problem that could be fatal.
Health Advocates also played an important role in H1N1 response. For instance:
* Health Advocates received special training related to H1N1 and campus response procedures and instructed on how to detect and report symptoms of influenza-like illness.
* Each advocate was fitted with an N95 respirator and given a supply of surgical masks to hand out to students with flu-like symptoms and their roommates.
* Health Advocates learned when students with flu-like symptoms should just stay in their rooms and rest and when flu-like symptoms necessitated care at the health service. Health Advocates also were trained to call the 24-hour nurse line to help inform their decisions.
* They were reminded that residence hall students could have meals delivered to their rooms instead of going to the dining hall. The Residence Hall Directors could contact an advocate if a student needed a meal delivered.
* Health Advocates were given window clings to hang in bathrooms to remind students to wash their hands.
* They received specially equipped messenger bags with pre-made packages of thermometers and over-the-counter medications.
* During weekly classes, advocates were surveyed to determine how prevalent flu symptoms were in the residence halls and fraternities and sororities.
According to Golden, Health Advocates helped Boynton Health Services track the spread of the disease across campus by reporting cases back to the health service and also "helped us keep everyone calm."