April 30, 2013

Gannett, Greek System Hope to Bolster Health on Campus

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The Greek system hopes to take on a new role at Cornell by partnering with Gannett Health Services to make students more aware of physical and mental health resources on campus.

As part of the initiative, which began in January, fraternity and sorority representatives — named health and wellness chairs — undergo training; they also meet every two weeks to inform their houses about wellness-related events and resources offered by the University while reporting to Gannett about health within their chapters, according to Angela Falisi ’12, a public health fellow at Gannett.

The role of health and wellness chairs was developed to “bridge the gap between students and the University” by distributing publications about healthy lifestyles, referring students to resources on campus and bringing programs about stress reduction, nutrition and other wellness topics to houses, according to Falisi.

Three fraternity chapters — Delta Upsilon, Chi Phi and Psi Upsilon — and three sorority chapters — Sigma Delta Tau, Delta Gamma and Pi Beta Phi — selected a total of nine representatives to participate in the initiative this semester. The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council hope to expand the initiative to include more chapters and student organizations in the coming semesters, according to current health and wellness chairs.

Current participants in the program say the purpose of the initiative is to connect the Greek system with the University in order to address health issues among students.

“The Greek Health and Wellness Committee is a great way to bring members of Greek life together to learn strategies and collectively brainstorm ways to support the physical and mental well-being of members of our individual chapters as well as the greater Cornell community,” Jeanie Gribben ’15, a health and wellness chair for Sigma Delta Tau, said in an email.

Falisi said that, although the program is still in its pilot phase, the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Council of Mental Health and Welfare at Cornell have been receptive to the program. More than 20 chapters have already expressed interest in getting involved, Falisi added.

“The current chairs have been integral in helping us to improve the program, and we definitely want to expand to other chapters or any student group on campus that has a tight bond,” Falisi said.

Student training currently consists of listening skills workshops and the Notice and Respond: Friend 2 Friend service, a Gannett Health Services program that teaches students how to reach out to friends who may be struggling with health-related issues, according to Falisi.

However, current chairs said they hope to broaden the training to be more comprehensive.

“Next semester, we hope to expand to have training in first response and in things like CPR so we can be a better health resource, ” Gribben said.

Current chairs said a major feature of the program is the direct link between Greek houses and Gannett Health Services as well as other resources on campus.

“Being in a sorority, I noticed that there are a lot of health resources on campus, but I think the Greek system was the one community that lacked that health focus,” said Lane Wendel ’14, a health and wellness chair for Sigma Delta Tau. “I’m happy to see it expanding to that part of the Cornell community.”

According to Falisi, the program was a “student-initiated effort” that launched last fall, when a group of students within the Greek system approached Gannett with plans for a health and wellness program. Wendel said that several students who were involved with Minds Matter and other wellness organizations on campus brought the program to some houses, including Sigma Delta Tau, soon after.

Participants in the Greek Health and Wellness Initiative this semester say that the program has already had beneficial effects within individual houses and in the Greek system as a whole.

“My experience on the board this semester has provided me with valuable training in mental health and interpersonal relations. It has enhanced my experience in my own chapter and has given me the unique opportunity to work closely with members of other chapters,” Gribben said in a statement. “I truly value being a part of this program, and I look forward to my future participation.”

Original Author: Lauren Avery