City of Austin, University Health Services launch unique program to promote health, well-being among students

Danielle Ransom

Between endless exams, demanding schedules and a fast food diet, it can be hard to stay healthy in college. Last fall, UT partnered with the City of Austin to help students easily and affordably maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Healthy Student Organization Program is a collaboration that connects student organizations to health and wellness resources. It also provides recognition and rewards to organizations that positively impact UT Austin students, according to William Mupo, the health promotion coordinator at UHS.

The program promotes health through its toolkit guide, which helps groups introduce healthier habits and activities to their members. The guide contains wellness, workout and healthy eating tips, as well as advice about resources. 

It also allows student organizations to reward members for being active and eating healthy, and local restaurants and businesses offer discounts to participating UT students and groups as a perk. 

Seventeen student organizations took part in the program and were awarded either bronze, silver or gold recognition based on their level of achievement. The teams that participated included service and health-based organizations, such as Orange Jackets and Texas 4000, well as spiritual and cultural groups.

“We wanted to make sure when we piloted the program that organizations that were representative of the campus were involved, because we wanted to make sure they were applicable to the whole campus,” Mupo said.

UHS created a focus group to get feedback on the program. They will use this data to find what adaptations they need to improve the program for the next year’s participants.

“Some key feedback we got back was that some organizations were aware of all of the various resources available, whereas others did not, so one of the things we wanted to do was spread this awareness throughout all of the student organizations,” Mupo said.  

UHS student assistants Nikah Hatcher and Eric Samuelson, both senior exercise science students, helped bring the program to fruition by conducting research that they used to create the toolkit guide. They implemented a survey to see if the guide was useful for students.

“A lot of the students are appreciative of the changes the toolkit help them make to achieve a healthier lifestyle,” Samuelson said. “It helped them recognize ideas to implement healthy activities into their organization.”

The City of Austin acknowledged the organizations at a council meeting held April 21. UHS will honor them at a student appreciation event today, where they will give out gift cards and other prizes. 

Last September, Active Minds gave UT the Healthy Campus Award that recognized the university as one of the healthiest campuses in the nation. The award celebrates U.S. colleges and universities that are prioritizing health and demonstrating innovation and excellence in promoting student wellbeing.

“This has made me realize that a lot of people really do want to pursue a healthier and active lifestyle,” Samuelson said. ”Providing organizations with these resources helps students promote this type of lifestyle, which creates a greater connection between general members and the organization as a whole.”