Peer Health Education Program seeks to engage students with healthy lifestyles

  • The Peer Health Educators Program will allow students to lead discussions to train others to live healthy.
  • The program will start in spring 2018 and students interesting in applying to be a PHE can sign up online.

Liberty University will be launching a new Peer Health Education program for students in the spring semester as a part of the Department of Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives.

Bethany Williams, assistant director of Health and Wellness at Liberty, said the program will focus on peer to peer education in workshop-like small groups where students will both learn and engage in conversation.

These small groups will involve both student discussion and the presentation of relevant health related information by student leaders called Peer Health Educators or PHEs.

Williams said the program will be a service lending project to all residential students.

“It is our hope that the students realize that this is a place of intentionality where they can discuss their health concerns and even encourage and hold each other accountable,” Williams said.  “It also provides an opportunity for Peer Health Educators to be leaders by serving and impacting their peers through encouraging behavioral changes.”

Williams said that the Health and Wellness Department will be selecting and training students to serve as Peer Health Educators for the program.  Peer Health Educators will be students with a sophomore or higher standing with at least a 2.5 GPA, are well balanced and good with time management, are passionate about health and are looking to develop professionally.

According to Williams, the idea for the program came shortly after the Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives Office was created.

“Multiple brainstorming sessions helped our department come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to interact with and engage with students on health and wellness and to achieve positive change on our campus would be through a peer health education program,” Williams said.  “Research into a lot of other college programs has shown that peer-to-peer education is very effective.”

Williams said the beginning stages involved a lot of research and gathering data on how other colleges implement similar peer health education programs.  The department wanted to look at what worked for other colleges and see what puzzle pieces could work here at Liberty.

“We’re still in the process of developing the program, and I think the biggest challenge is just building a foundation,” Williams said. “We want the program to really help students and make sure that what we design and implement is sustainable, and building that foundation can be challenging.”

The Peer Health Education program will also serve as a part of fulfilling Liberty’s commitment with Partnership for a Heathier America, a nonprofit committed to creating healthier environments.  Three categories of wellness, physical activity and nutrition are implemented through various programs as part of the current partnership until 2019.

Next semester in January, students who are interested getting involved with the program can come to a Peer Health Education group in order to sign up or sign up online.

Williams said joining the Peer Health Education program will help students not just now, but years into the future.

“Choosing to be involved in the Peer Health Education program will have a long term impact,” Williams said.  “Learning and equipping yourself with good habits and accountability now will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Making healthy decisions is a personal choice, and our hope is students would decide through encouragements from PHEs to make lifestyle changes that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Those small healthy choices that we make can help us be happier people overall because we are honoring God with our bodies and stewarding the time that God has given to us well.”


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