Since its inception in 1972 GatorWell has applied health promotion strategies to educate University of Florida students on health and wellness topics relevant to the college experience. The driving mission is to empower students to be both healthy and well through prevention with the assistance of a talented team of Health Promotion Specialists. GatorWell is a strong supporter of hiring staff with a CHES® or MCHES® certification behind their name, and currently has five CHES®-certified individuals on staff.
“We prefer CHES® or MCHES® certification because it clearly identifies the skills of a Health Promotion Specialist. We know that those with the credential have completed appropriate training, can understand and apply behavior change theories, population-based theories and models, and evidence-based health promotion programs and initiatives. In college health promotion, needs assessment, capacity building, planning, implementation, and evaluation are expected skills for the individual to hit the ground running.”
-Monica C. Webb, CHES®, Program Director, GatorWell Health Promotion Services
Health Promotion at GatorWell
GatorWell’s team of Health Promotion Specialists develop, implement, and evaluate theory-based and evidence-informed health promotion strategies, policies, programs, and services, applying the Social-Ecological Model in taking a multi-focused approach to college health promotion. Health Promotion Specialists employ their skills using a variety of educational methods, such as presentations, workshops, trainings, individual behavior change sessions and small group discussion/facilitation. They work hard to consistently target health promotion initiatives and educational materials for our diverse student population. This is of special importance when developing campus-wide health communication campaigns.
Health Promotion Specialists also support data tracking and report development related to our strategies, programs, and services. Data is integral for the planning and evaluation of GatorWell’s programs and outreach, and HP Specialists will collaborate with key stakeholders to develop a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to health education and promotion. They are also expected to hire, supervise and manage student staff, interns, and volunteers.
A History of Growth
Over the past 47 years, the size and scope of GatorWell has grown to accommodate the needs of the University of Florida student body. GatorWell began with one health educator working within the Student Health Care Center. Today, we are located within the Division of Student Affairs with ten full-time employees, five of which are Certified Health Education Specialists. and approximately 26 student staff members. GatorWell is currently looking to increase our professional staff with an exciting new model which includes embedding a Health Promotion Specialist within Sorority and Fraternity Affairs. While the size and location of GatorWell has changed over the years, the focus has intrinsically remained on the health behavior skills of our students to facilitate lifelong success.
GatorWell CHES® Weigh In
Sara Ryals, CHES®, GatorWell Health Promotion Services:
“One of my goals in my role at GatorWell Health Promotion Services is to change the culture of sleep at the University of Florida by engaging stakeholders and changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to sleep. My CHES® skills help me plan, implement, and evaluate programming to reach this goal. For example, through strategically planning and collaborating with stakeholders, I worked with a team to create GatorWell’s Sleep Dream Thrive Health Communication Campaign for students living in the residence halls at UF. Currently, I am using needs assessment data and health education theories and models to collaborate with campus partners to plan the first ever UF Sleep Week.”
Samantha Evans, CHES®, GatorWell Health Promotion Services:
“As a major part of my job, I oversee our peer health education program, the GatorWell Health Hut. The Health Hut is currently celebrating 20 years of providing fact-based and fun health and wellness information, as well as interactive and skill-based activities, to University of Florida students. My CHES® skills allow me to effectively plan and implement this program, as well as train and mentor student peer wellness educators to best serve the UF student population. As a highly visible program, it also often gives me and GatorWell a platform to consistently communicate and advocate for the creation of a healthy campus community.”
Jennifer Kennymore, CHES®, GatorWell Health Promotion Services:
“In my role as a Health Promotion Specialist, I have been able to utilize my CHES® skills quite often. Based on data, we know that stress is a main academic impediment for students and one of my main areas of focus for programming with students is stress management. I have planned, implemented and evaluated programs such as the “Keep Calm before Finals” event and the Stress Less Room in one of our satellite offices to help students manage their stress in healthy ways. Additionally, in collaborating and communicating with campus partners, such as the Counseling and Wellness Center, we are better able to work together to meet the diverse needs of our students around stress management and mental health while also advocating for their overall health and wellness on campus.”