USC implements plan to address student well-being

 The Engemann Student Health Center will install vending machines that will dispense self-care supplies by the end of the semester. (Daily Trojan file photo)

USC is taking a new approach to address student well-being on campus with Collective Impact, a new plan that has been in the works for several years. The strategy aims to encourage everyone across campus to work together toward common health goals.

The new strategy is based on a Stanford University study from 2011. “Large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations,” the Stanford study states.

In other words, it’s harder to achieve positive change in any environment — business, school or government — without everyone involved having shared goals, according to the study.

The Office for Health Promotion Strategy will serve as the “backbone” of this new strategy. Director Paula Swinford stressed the need for a common agenda, continuous communication, an alignment of activities and shared metrics.

“If you go to some office, and you start talking about how drunk you were over the weekend, and the staff member says, ‘That’s just college,’ that would be a misalignment of communication, that we’re not communicating the same message,” Swinford said.

She credits Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry with the new effort to prioritize student well-being on campus.

Critics of the study complain that the approach strays too far from direct service and harms minority groups. However, much is still unknown about the implementation of Collective Impact; USC is one of the first universities in the United States to adopt the approach campus-wide.

Currently, there are four primary goals the strategy aims to achieve: equity and inclusion, individual and communal well-being, curbing substance abuse and healthy relationships. Students will see the plan start to take effect in the coming weeks and months, including self-care vending machines and increased funding for safer sex resources.

Students can expect to see a self-care vending machine on campus by the end of the semester. It will contain Plan B, condoms, Tylenol and pregnancy tests, among other health supplies.

According to Associate Vice Provost for Student Health and Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman, the idea was suggested to Student Health by USG in the spring.

The change comes at an opportune time, after the CDC reported on Aug. 28 that there were almost 2.3 million cases of STIs in the U.S. last year, the highest number ever reported.

“The fear of sexuality and sex is alive and well … California is ahead in many ways, but in other ways not so much,” said Diane Medsker, the senior learning and development specialist in the Office for Health Promotion Strategy.

In addition to the changes taking place on campus, USC Residential Education has begun to contribute additional funding for condoms and other sexual safety supplies.

Emily Sandoval, the senior director of Residential Education, works closely with the new Collective Impact approach and is co-leading the third goal, addressing alcohol and substance abuse.

“Paula had asked if I would be able to continue supporting the work that that office did with the condoms in the buckets, [and] I told her that I would be able to continue purchasing the condoms in bulk,” Sandoval said.

In the past, RAs retrieved condoms from the Engemann Student Health Center to distribute to their residents. This year they are able to go directly to the ResEd offices, which orders thousands of condoms each month.

“It’s definitely been a change for RAs, because now all of [the resources] aren’t in a centralized space, but we know where to get them,” said Divya Sripathy, a third-year RA.

The Office for Health Promotion Strategy wants to encourage students to participate in the new changes on campus.

“I would say that anybody who wants to get involved in helping us get out a message around student well-being [should] email and say, ‘Hey, I want to get involved,’ because we are trying to be really organic in our creation of this process,” Swinford said.