The Evolution of Health Promotion and Prevention Services

HPPS Associate Director Alexis Janda says collaboration with students and staff is key

Health Promotion and Prevention Services Associate Director Alexis Janda
January 25, 2016

By Brittney Dunkins

The George Washington University’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services is tucked into a cozy office in the front right corner of the Colonial Health Center, GW’s centralized health and wellness hub.  

On the entryway counter are pamphlets addressing a variety of wellness topics, from bystander intervention and resources for students in recovery to meditation, “safe spring break tips” and mental health services.

As the pamphlets indicate, the mission of HPPS is multifaceted.

“I had a Jesuit education, and it teaches the importance of educating the whole person—that’s the goal of Health Promotion and Prevention Services and the Colonial Health Center,” said HPPS Associate Director Alexis Janda. “If we can get students to start thinking about their academics, their physical health and their mental health equally, then we know we are doing our job.”

The evolution of HPPS began several years ago with a goal of expanding its reach to educate students about health and wellness. Programming changes to the office—previously called the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education—accompanied a name change in 2014.

Ms. Janda said that now HPPS prevention efforts focus on a variety of educational outreach activities—from planning events such as the Halloween Boo Bash and Be Wiser Day to individual sessions on substance misuse and workshops on health and wellness topics. The events are designed to get students talking about these issues in a fun and engaging way.

She also said that HPPS promotion efforts are central to the collaborative work of the CHC because HPPS acts as a connector between the campus community and the CHC.

“We work with other offices to help plan their events, and it was a natural transition because we can meet regularly since we are all in the CHC,” Ms. Janda said. “Another great thing about this collaborative center is that when students need further assistance or request a session on a specific topic, we can refer them to the correct staff person in CHC and help organize the event.”

Ms. Janda came to the university in 2012 and with support from Division of Student Affairs administrators, the role of the department began to expand. Despite hosting trainings and events, Ms. Janda said that there was a general perception that HPPS was simply the educational arm of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR).

“We were never a disciplinary office, but I think students sometimes saw it that way because they are required to participate in meetings about substance use if they have an infraction,” Ms. Janda said. “As we were forming a more centralized space for wellness, it made sense to expand our mission to general wellness and work more closely with the other offices that were moving to the Colonial Health Center.”

HPPS’s expanded mission owes much to participating in the  internal program review during the 2014-15 school year.

DSA program review began several years ago and procedural guidelines developed by the DSA Assessment Committee were adopted in 2013. Going forward, all DSA departments will participate in program review every five to 10 years in support of DSA's ongoing to commitment to assessment and continuous improvement 

Collaborating with students

Since participating in the review, HPPS has expanded its programming and collaboration with student organizations. It also has expanded its staff to include two full-time staff members and four graduate students.

“We had more than 700 students at Boo Bash this year, and I think it is because we have been working so closely with the Student Association,” Ms. Janda said. “The SA has done a great job of prioritizing student health and wellness, and we’ve taken the opportunity to use their input to develop programming.”

Cole Ettingoff, SA assistant director of health and wellness, said that CHC has offered a strong “continuum of care” for students who need to access medical, mental health and other services.   He added that it has been particularly rewarding to see HPPS make a point of including the SA in decision-making and in planning outreach.

“The issues that HPPS and the Division of Student Affairs care about are also issues our students care about, so by partnering together, HPPS and the SA can ensure we are most effectively using our resources,” Mr. Ettingoff said.

“HPPS has become a great example of how partnering with students ensures programming is effectively planned to meet student needs.”