Creating a Healthier Campus Community Using Action Research and Health Promotion Strategies: Students and Organizational Leaders as Partners

By Claire Budgen, Doris Callaghan, Diane Gamble, Robyn Wiebe, Christopher Reimer, Melissa Feddersen, Shannon Dunn, Rob Johnson, Natalie McHugh, Heidi Morrison, Kelli Sullivan, Ian Cull and Alaa Abd-El-Aziz.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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Although young adults are generally healthy, they often engage in risky behaviours and establish lifestyle patterns that have costly immediate and long-term health impacts (e.g. poor nutrition, inactivity, substance misuse). Many young people attend colleges and universities making campuses an ideal setting for interventions. Setting based health promotion approaches have been used to improve health of populations and communities, including campus communities, however, creating change that is meaningful to students and also organizational leaders (non-students) has been difficult. In 2006 at a rapidly growing campus in Canada, a program of research was started to increase knowledge about healthy campus development. The VOICE Study uses community based participatory action research methods in combination with setting based health promotion strategies. Students and organizational leaders (non-students) work as co-researchers and project partners to identify priority health issues and create health promoting change (individual and community levels). While the idea of campus community members working together on health related issues is appealing to many, diverse views exist about the responsibility of post-secondary institutions to promote health; some prefer an individual responsibility or consumer model. An ecosystem model of health and community informs this study. Photographic, quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used according to questions of interest. Action groups have been formed around diverse topics, for example, drinking water, “real” food, natural environment, physical activity, transportation and student space. Results indicate that the process of creating change through use of a methodological framework combining action research, setting based health promotion and youth/adult partnerships, is highly effective. Diverse students (youth) and organizational leaders (adults must be full partners throughout the process. Patience, persistence and a sense of humor are basic requirements. The results appear to be transferable to other settings when the egalitarian values embedded in the methodological framework are explicit, and the community designs the specifics (e.g. issues, actions) to fit their context. Study processes, outcomes, challenges and successes are discussed, followed by a case study on campus food to illustrate more specifically the use of the methodological framework and results.

Keywords: Youth and Adult Partnerships, Community Based Participatory Action Research, Healthy Community Development, Health Promoting Universities, Young Adult Health, Setting Based Health Promotion, Healthy Eating

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.155-176. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.934MB).

Dr. Claire Budgen

Director Health and Wellness , Associate Professor Emerita, Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, BC, Canada

RN, BSN (University of Washington), MSN (University of California San Francisco), PHD (University of Texas Austin). Dr. Budgen’s nursing practice and research interests include: young adult health; healthy community/campus development; mental health; quality of care; innovative health care systems; qualitative and quantitative research methods. Claire currently is working with an inter-professional team at UBC Okanagan to further develop a health promotion and prevention based student health and counselling unit, where acute treatment and rehabilitation are integrated components, and individual students and the campus community are of interest. She is the principal investigator for the VOICE research.

Doris Callaghan

Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, BC, Canada

RN, MSc (Health Promotion University of Manchester); Associate Professor Nursing. Doris’ research interests include healthy living and chronic disease prevention in youth. Current research: tobacco policy at university campuses across Canada and action research methods to create healthy communities/campuses. Doris is a Co-principle investigator with VOICE.

Dr. Diane Gamble

Associate Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, BC, Canada

RN, PhD (Nursing U of Alberta), Associate Professor Emerita Nursing, Research and Practice Consultant. Dr. Gamble teaches Relational Practice, Political Action and Nurses Influencing Change. Her practice background and research interests are community focused health promotion, healthy university/college development, midwifery, ethical interpersonal/interprofessional relationships and innovative research methods to explore these concepts. Diane is a Co-principle investigator with VOICE.

Robyn Wiebe

Graudate Student, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

RN, BSN (UBC Okanagan). Robyn is a graduate student at University of Victoria (UVic). Research interests include equity, public health and community-based research. Robyn works with Health & Wellness on special projects, research and sustainability initiatives. At UVIC, Robyn is a Research Assistant with the School of Nursing. A current research focus is the emerging field of Public Health Systems/Service Research. Robyn was the Project Coordinator for VOICE for 2 years.

Christopher Reimer

Nurse Clinician, Health and Wellness, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

RN, BSN (UBC Okanagan). Chris worked as an undergraduate student researcher on VOICE Study #1. Following graduation, he joined Health and Wellness at UBC Okanagan to work as a Nurse Clinician. Chris is on the research team for VOICE Study #2, working as a mentor for student researchers and taking the lead on many projects. He also works in Cardiology at the Kelowna General Regional Hospital.

Melissa Feddersen

Project Coordinator, Health & Wellness, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, BC, Canada

RN BSN (UBC Okanagan). Melissa is a project coordinator and Nurse Clinician with Health and Wellness. Her practice background is public health nursing, illness/injury prevention, camp nursing and youth/student health and wellness. She is engaged in tobacco control research, evaluation and program development work, funded by Health Canada. Melissa has played a key project facilitation role with VOICE since its inception.

Shannon Dunn

Director Housing and Conferences, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

BCommerce (Ryerson University Toronto), graduate student MA Interdisciplinary Studies (UBC Okanagan Health/Health Care). Shannon is Director Housing and Conferences at UBC Okanagan and has been the administrative leader in the rapid food and housing service development. Shannon serves on many internal committees, she is Director of the Emergency Operation Centre for the campus; and externally, in her profession, serving as Chair of the Corporate Relations and Exhibits Committee for the Association of College and University Housing Officers International. She is a strong advocate for student participation in campus decision making and program development, and committed to helping students assume responsibility for their health and for promoting the health of others on campus. Shannon has been a key VOICE team member throughout the study.

Rob Johnson

Director Athletics and Recreation, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

Bachelor and Masters in Physical Education (UBC), Associate Professor Education, Director of Athletics and Recreation. Rob has been instrumental in the development of health and fitness opportunities for students, inclusive of a wide range physical and social determinants. He is a strong supporter of research and programming that involves student input and community participation. Rob has been a key team member since the inception of the VOICE research.

Natalie McHugh

Assistant Food Services Director, Aramark, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

Natalie is the administrative lead for Aramark on campus, the main food vendor. She has taken a lead role in shaping the food services to be more responsive to student interests including, for example, fresh local fruit, and also, in bringing a business perspective to the VOICE Food Action Group discussions about healthy eating. Her family runs a local orchard which has become a respected provider of high quality, reasonable priced fruit for student programs and events.

Heidi Morrison

Nurse Clinician, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

RN, BSN (UBC Okanagan) Practice background Public Health, Sexual Health and Maternity. Her work as a Nurse Clinician at Health & Wellness has included extensive work with VOICE and the Food Action Group. She is especially adept at helping students and organizational leaders work collaboratively and in a forward direction.

Kelli Sullivan

Health Research Facilitator, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

MA (Family Studies). Kelli’s research interests include parent-adolescent relationships, youth health and gender-based analysis. During the VOICES project Kelli was working on her PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Studies. She currently works with the Faculty of Health and Social Development as a Health Research Facilitator. She was a research associate during the pilot study and continues to contribute to VOICE proposal and project development and dissemination.

Ian Cull

Assistant Vice President, Students, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

Honours BA, MA (Clinical Psychology) (Lakehead University), Honours BA (Anthropology/Archaeology ((McMaster University). Ian has been in the position of Associate Vice President, Students, at the Okanagan Campus of the University of British Columbia since its inception in 2005. As a senior executive and senior student affairs officer with a large portfolio of services for students, his contribution of time and support for the VOICE research program has been a key to its ongoing relevance to students and organizational leaders. Ian has contributed a practical and creative approach to people and problems, interest in undergraduate student engagement in research, and time when needed by the team. Ian is a member of Dokis Indian Band in Ontario.

Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz

President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, P.E.I., Canada

BSc, MSc (Ain Shams University Cairo), PhD (University of Saskatchewan), NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship (University of Toronto. Dr. Abd-El-Aziz is the President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Prince Edward Island. During the VOICE Study #1 he was Provost and Associate Vice President Academic and Research at UBC Okanagan Campus. As a senior executive and chemistry professor, Alaa has contributed unique expertise and considerable time to VOICE, demonstrating his commitment to teaching and to involving students and other members of the campus in research. He has willingly worked across disciplines and departments to investigate questions about the campus and solve problems. Alaa is a prolific researcher with numerous grants, publications and presentations to his credit.