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2010 News Releases

Longwood to receive national exposure for flu prevention efforts

June 1, 2010

Margo Potts (from left), Sasha Gregory and Patti Wagner of the Student Health Center developed a poster about Longwood’s flu prevention efforts that will be be presented at a national conference. Margo Potts (from left), Sasha Gregory and Patti Wagner of the Student Health Center developed a poster about Longwood’s flu prevention efforts that will be be presented at a national conference.

Longwood University's efforts in promoting flu prevention, which feature a healthy dose of student involvement, will result in national exposure.

The Student Health & Wellness Center and the Student Health Partners will present a poster, "Students Promoting Flu Prevention: A Unique Partnership," at the annual meeting of the American College Health Association (ACHA) in Philadelphia on June 4. Longwood is the only institution in Virginia, public or private, in which student government funds flu vaccinations for students, which the university's SGA has done since 2006. Flu prevention involves the Student Health Partners (SHP), a student advisory committee.

"When I learned the theme of this year's conference, which is public health, I thought it tied in beautifully to what we have been doing for flu prevention at Longwood," said Margo Potts, director of student health. "Our poster describes how the Student Health Partners have been able to expand flu prevention with the help of SGA funding, as well as the impact this has had on Longwood. Providing flu vaccines in this manner has been very effective for us. We are looking forward to sharing what has worked for us with other schools. We hope that they can take the information and use it at their own institutions.

"The key piece in this, and what makes it so neat, is that this is a student-driven program. Beginning in 2006 the Student Health Partners went to the SGA and asked for funds for flu vaccines. This allows students to get vaccinated without any direct out-of-pocket expense. Each year SHP has asked for and received more funding for vaccine. In addition, SHP has gotten funds for cold/flu kits which contain self-care items and health education material. Getting vaccinated for the flu in this manner and having the cold/flu kits available has become part of the student culture here at Longwood. Students have bought into this, they know when the vaccine is available, and they expect it. And what's amazing is that this funding is their 'fun money,' which they choose to use for this public health initiative."

Thanks to the SGA funding, derived from student fees, more than 700 immunizations were given in 2006-07; a little more than 900 in 2007-08; some 1,175 in 2008-09; and 836 in 2009-2010 before the vaccine ran out. Because of shortages, the university received only half of the vaccine that was expected in 2009-2010.

ACHA Poster Presentation
ACHA Poster Presentation (click to enlarge)

"All of these doses were for seasonal flu, but in the coming year the vaccine will have the 2009 H1N1 strain included in it," Potts said. "We administer the vaccine in flu clinics held in early October right after fall break at various locations around campus, and students can also come in here (Student Health Center) and get the vaccine. We try to do clinics where the students are to make it more convenient. For example, we do clinics for the athletes in the training center (in Willett Hall). Athletics is on board, and most of the teams get vaccinated which helps decrease flu rates when the athletes are in season."

For the fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2010, the SGA allocated $9,910 to the Student Health Partners, of which $8,500 will go to flu vaccines. SGA funding for flu vaccines last year was $8,550, but Longwood was able to receive only $3,995 worth of vaccine.

"Because of these vaccines, we can decrease the number of flu cases here, and it has made a difference," Potts said. "In 2008-09 when there was a lot of flu in the community, we didn't have much on campus. About 25 percent of the student body was immunized that year. You're never going to reach and protect all of the students directly, but at least if you're around people who have been vaccinated, you won't get it. Our goal is to reach and maintain 'herd immunity' in which we have enough students vaccinated that everyone can be protected.

"Pam Higgins (former student health director) was instrumental in getting this off the ground. Her focus was always on public health. We have received campus-wide support from the president on down. However, even though this is supported by the administration, if the students weren't interested, it wouldn't have happened."

The Student Health Partners' mission, Potts said, is to "provide Student Health with student concerns about general health and well-being. They evolved in 2005 from an organization called Peer Helpers."

The Student Health Center and Student Health Partners also promote flu prevention and overall health through the so-called cold/flu kit. The kit is a plastic baggy that contains various items (including hand sanitizer, Ibuprofen tablets, tissue and lip balm) and information on cold symptoms and how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.

"Since 2006 we've distributed between 3,000 and 4,000 cold/flu kits every year," said Potts. "We give them to students who visit us, keep them in the waiting room during cold and flu season, and also hand them out at health fairs. The information on how to prevent spreading a cold or the flu to others is even more important than the items that help with the symptoms."

The poster for the ACHA meeting was developed by Potts; Sasha Gregory, wellness coordinator (and 2005 Longwood graduate); Patti Wagner, clinic registered nurse; and four students - rising sophomore Ericka Godwin, rising junior Zachary Highland, and May 2010 graduates Jerron Greene and Rachel Stinespring - who comprise the Student Health Partners. It is one of 86 posters chosen to be presented June 3 or 4 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two-person teams, consisting of one student and one staff member, will take turns presenting the poster. The poster was printed on a printer in the Geographic Information Sciences lab in Chichester Science Center that prints posters on 42-inch wide rolls of paper.

In addition to Potts, Gregory, Wagner, and the four students, others who plan to attend the ACHA meeting are Dr. Wayne O'Brien, director of the Counseling Center; Dr. David Davino, a counselor in the Counseling Center; Kelly Oddy, fitness coordinator; and Marcy Cole, a physician assistant in the Student Health Center.

"This partnership with SHP and SGA to provide flu vaccine fits Longwood's mission of creating citizen leaders," Potts said. "Students need to learn methods of promoting and incorporating self-care and care of their community, which is necessary for a citizen leader. This student-driven creative partnership has had a positive impact on the student population as a whole, and it continues to make a difference."