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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Stetson students reach out to promote public health
Rating: 2.44 / 5 (16 votes)  
Posted: 2013 May 03 - 06:11

By Erika Webb

Some Stetson University students want children to color their own pictures of good health, and are providing the materials to help them do so.

Health Communication students created two coloring books and videos promoting the importance of public health. They presented the school projects to the Volusia County Health Department for distribution at its health centers in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach DeLand and Deltona.

This is the first time Stetson University and the Health Department have partnered on a community-service learning project.

"We presented the student projects to our staff during our annual Employee Awards Program in early April and our employees greatly appreciated the work done by the students," said Dr. Bonnie J. Sorensen, Health Department director. "It's nice to be appreciated as we work daily to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts."

Dr. Tara J. Schuwerk, an assistant professor at Stetson, said the students produced and edited their video projects, and designed interesting coloring books with creative characters.

"Our students were excited about this community service learning project because it gave them an opportunity to explore the many aspects of public health on campus and in our community," Dr. Schuwerk said. "They enjoyed this project and did a fantastic job. They made valuable connections between their course work and the service they provided to the community."

Dr. Schuwerk is passionate about helping students see a connection between what they learn in the classroom and its practical application.

"Because of my perspective, I began looking for a way to connect the learning in my Health Communication course with the needs of a community partner. Stetson University has worked with the Health Department before with internships and community-based research, so it seemed like an ideal situation to continue building that relationship," Dr. Schuwerk said.

She contacted Stefany Strong, the health department's public information officer, and together they coordinated the effort.

Dr. Schuwerk said her two Health Communication classes were assigned two projects each and students have devoted more than 350 hours to their projects.

The first, a coloring and activity book about public health to be placed in the waiting rooms of the county's health clinics, yielded "Duncan's Healthy Day" and "The Awesome Adventures of Harry the Health Fox."

"These books would not only educate the children about health issues, but also keep them entertained while waiting in the clinic," Dr. Schuwerk said.

The students developed each character, Harry the Fox and Duncan the Dinosaur, provided all the drawings for the books and created all the activities and story lines.

Morgan Resnick, a junior majoring in Integrative Health Science, was a group leader for the project. She organized, coordinated with others and designed some of the pages.

"Our coloring book was designed for older children who could understand simplistic health topics such as teeth brushing and wearing sunscreen, but also comprehend hurricane safety and rabies vaccinations for their pets," Ms. Resnick said.

She said the other group's book addressed a younger age group -- three to nine years old.

"By taking this Health Communication class, I learned a lot about communication as a whole and how to assess your audience in order to effectively communicate your point of view," Ms. Resnick said.

The college students learned to appeal to their target audience through language and relatable characters.

"The book can, and should, be used as a conversation piece between the child and parent in order to instill and reinforce healthy living habits," she explained.

Ms. Resnick described herself as a hands-on learner who enjoys service-oriented activities.

"Service learning is a great opportunity to improve and engage your community in ways that it wouldn't have benefited by just reading a textbook and I'm thankful for having been a part of this process," she said.

The second project was developing a short video designed to educate the general population.

The students were charged with creating the video from scratch, which involved shooting all the footage, editing the film, and working in appropriate music and credits, Dr. Schuwerk explained.

One video shows members of the Stetson community as well as the community at large talking about the importance of all aspects of health: physical, mental and spiritual. The brief public service announcement was filmed at various locales, including the beach, springs, a DeLand health food market, downtown DeLand and the Stetson campus.

The completion of the projects coincided with National Public Health week in the first week of April.

Dr. Schuwerk said campus events to showcase the work included: "Public Health is Everywhere" and "Relay for Life" as well as a presentation called "Duncan's Healthy Day: A Service Learning Project."

Chelsea Whalley, a senior in the integrative health program also helped create one of the coloring books.

"I think it is very important to start informing children about health issues at a young age because that way a healthy lifestyle can be integrated early and become habit. And what better way to appeal to young children than with a coloring book? It was a great experience," Ms. Whalley said.

"Integrative medicine seems to promise more time, more attention and a broader approach to healing -- one that is not based solely on the Western biomedical model, but also draws from other cultures," an article at webmd.com reported.

Stetson's integrative health department also houses The Healing Garden, a medicinal plant garden containing over 60 plants. It's used for education, research, recreation and departmental events.

Community members are encouraged to visit the garden for education; culinary herbs are harvested and used in food preparation at The Commons, Stetson's main dining location.

The student video projects can be viewed at these links: youtube.com/watch?v=SiQCzjZbrh8 or vimeo.com/62868311

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