Students Raise Awareness on Health Issues
By Karen Angelo
Students involved in the Community Health Education Club are carving out real-world learning opportunities for themselves as they educate community members, bring speakers to campus and participate in an advocacy summit in Washington, D.C.
Last fall, community health student Melissa Franklin became president of the Community Health Education Club to get more involved in the community.
“I am passionate about health,” says Franklin, a certified nursing assistant, who transferred to UMass Lowell from Middlesex Community College in the fall of 2012.
By talking with the student activities department and working with faculty adviser Rebecca Foco, Franklin recruited 27 members to the club.
“Recruiting was easy because students are always looking for additional ways to put their training into action,” says Franklin.
Peter Saing, vice president of the club, has also taken on a leadership role by forming a close working relationship with the Lowell Public Health Department. One of the club’s major projects involved educating the public about preventing opioid abuse. The students distributed flyers throughout the community and spoke with pharmacy representatives, community leaders, school officials and business owners about opioid overdoses that kill two people per day in Massachusetts.
Says Franklin: “Peter has been done so much work for this club by reaching out to the health educator and nursing manager at the Lowell Public Health Department and visiting local schools to teach kids about preventing opioid use and how to properly dispose of unwanted medications.”
Bringing Speakers to Campus
The student club has also been hard at work planning activities for the spring semester. The students have organized a speaker series on Feb. 20 that will include representatives from the Lowell Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health who will discuss public health issues and job trends in the field of public health.
“We thought it would be great for students to hear from people in community health about the real-world applications of our major and all the opportunities that are available,” says Franklin.
To help build their professional advocacy skills, the students are attending the 16th Annual Health Advocacy Summit in March in Washington, D.C. They will participate in workshops and visit with policy makers on Capitol Hill. When they return, the students will share their experiences with the University community.
Lecturer Foco in the Community Health and Sustainability Department praised the students: “The club members, and especially the executive board members, are demonstrating a passion for health promotion and helping others. They are so active it's a challenge just to keep up.”