Back to School Edition: PR for a Healthy Campus

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It’s the unmistakable signs – moving vans, sales on student supplies, young adults flooding back into the neighborhood – that make it clear: it’s back to school time.  We realize that today’s technology affords college students and teachers alike a world of conveniences that some of us at EZG never even dreamed of.  From e-books and classroom WiFi, to Facebook pages for study groups and planning course schedules on a mobile phone, universities are enjoying the benefits of modern tech.

If it’s not online, will students see it?

But administrators are also harnessing the power of social media and technology to launch public relations campaigns encouraging responsible behavior from students – and the results could be life-changing.

Case in point – Northwestern University and more than 60 schools offer a “Red Watch Band” program to curb high-risk binge drinking amongst students.  It teaches students to recognize the warning signs of alcohol poisoning and to call for medical help.  There are Facebook pages dedicated to the cause, training sessions posted online, and a website sharing instructions on how schools can start their own program.  Some schools go one step further in engaging students about drinking.  DePaul University in Chicago actually requires freshman to take an online self-assessment to analyze their alcohol use before they get to campus. eCHUG (electronic CHECKUP TO GO) is an on-line alcohol intervention and social norming program developed by San Diego State University and used by many institutions in the U.S.

Eating habits on campus are getting a PR push through smartphone apps.  Dining management company ARAMARK, launched its CampusDish® Mobile App to help students easily check their campus dining hall menu’s nutrition details to make informed meal selections.  Versions of this app are available at more than 600 college and university locations, including New York University, University of Virginia and John Hopkins University.

Sleep for students is also a major cause this semester, with colleges and universities creating campaigns to encourage better sleep habits, spirited by sharing news electronically.  Boston College’s “Sweet Dreamzzz” is the school’s official sleep health campaign to help students identify barriers and strategies to achieve better sleep habits. The University of Louisville is planning a campus-wide “flash nap“, which students are already tweeting about.

With recent reports of binge drinking deaths, obesity, and affects of sleep deprivation at higher learning institutions, we can all certainly appreciate how administrators are harnessing the modern tech sphere to help students improve their health.  And as our own kids head off to school, we look forward to the innovations to come.

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