Health groups invigorate programs

The lines in Whitmans’ weren’t the only ones snaking in Paresky last week, as close to 400 students queued up on the second floor to wait for their flu shots last Wednesday. While the Health Center conducts annual flu clinics, this year’s clinic, the first one in Paresky, drew almost twice as many people as past years, where numbers have been between 200 and 300.

The Health Center’s recent use of Paresky has served an important factor in encouraging student participation in Center campaigns. The Center noted last spring that it intended to improve the campus’ awareness of its services through more outreach. Its increased visibility, due to its new Paresky office, signifies a step towards accomplishing this goal.

The Health Center now has a staff member available in its Paresky Office five days a week, with a different staff member holding hours each day. The staff with walk-in hours includes a nutritionist, a substance abuse counselor, a nurse and a psychological counseling services clinician. Ruth Harrison, director of Health Services, noted that the number of students dropping by is rising. “We are not being overwhelmed by students at Paresky, but numbers are increasing,” she said.

Outreach efforts have also included Depression Awareness Week held last month, Breast Cancer Awareness tabling and a “Sleep” campaign alerting students of the risks of sleep deprivation. Additionally, Health Center Nurse Roxanne Rechen is holding counseling sessions for groups leaving the country over Winter Study.

The Center is in the midst of planning more alcohol education, and Harrison explained that increasing student participation and awareness remains a priority. “We would like to have more student contact in entries and neighborhoods,” she said, “perhaps by bringing alcohol education, nutrition, or any other health topics that students are interested in.”

Peer Health (PH), which shares the Health Center’s Paresky office, has also shifted towards more aggressive campaigning and is experiencing a strong revival after little activity during the last few years. “The office in Paresky has definitely contributed to the revival of PH,” said Tanya Pramatarova ’09, PH co-coordinator. “However, the time during which PH didn’t have a home has made it that much more difficult for PH to assume the role it had before,” she said.

The Class of 2007 was the last to see PH functioning through Baxter, according to Pramatarova. Lacking a central space since the old student center, the group has struggled to keep current students informed of PH. “Making four classes of Williams students aware of PH and what it has to offer has been challenging,” she said, adding that the group is still working towards utilizing the new office more effectively.

PH is introducing fresh campaigning techniques, as well as improving past ones. The group now conducts call-in and walk-in hours on a regular basis, where PH members are available to answer questions on a variety of health issues and to sell condoms and lubricants. PH has also reorganized its “stall-talk” campaign to assure better coverage of academic buildings and freshmen dorms, Pramatarova said. Other goals include updating its Web site and increasing publicity.

While there is no formal connection with the Health Center, the two organizations join efforts to coordinate the topics and timings of campaigns. Additionally, PH has a Health Center liaison to ensure the group can provide the most accurate information, while also supplying the Health Center with student feedback.