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Wellness initiatives promote healthy lifestyle on campus

With our hectic schedules and routines, students often can’t find the time to seek support or information on health and lifestyle issues.

That’s why the Health and Wellness Centre at U of T Scarborough has introduced the Wellness Peer Program, an on-campus initiative to provide students with information and support for leading a healthy lifestyle.

Events and contests are held throughout the year to create awareness of health and wellness issues among the students through four unique programs organized by the campus program coordinators, with the help of volunteer peer educators.

“We’ve found that students are much more receptive to programs run by their own peers,” says Elsa Kiosses, Health Promotion Nurse, who supervises the four programs. “These initiatives are aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and educated decision making. It’s not that there is a serious issue on campus, but this is the time that students are beginning to make choices that affect their lives, and by raising awareness, we can help them make informed decisions that best suit them. It also helps to validate those who do make healthy choices to continue to do so.”

The wellness initiatives focus on social and lifestyle issues that students face everyday. The peer educators regularly set up displays at the Meeting Place and the Student Centre to answer questions, and when needed, refer students to services at the Health and Wellness Centre for further guidance. The four peer programs are as follows:

Party in the Right Spirit

This program aims to provide the student body with information that will help individuals make responsible choices when planning or attending social events involving alcohol. It is offered in collaboration with Toronto Public Health, with support from Hospitality and Retail Services. Peer educator volunteers, who are trained by the Toronto Public Health Nurses, are conducting walkabouts and setting up information booths to create awareness of the issues related to alcohol consumption.

Upcoming events include a one-day conference to be held on January 19, at the Bluff’s stage for all campus clubs representatives. This unique workshop and speaker series covers three relevant topics for students planning or participating in events that may involve alcohol: liability; alcohol/drug impairment; and violence prevention and communication strategies. The event costs $10, including lunch, and takes place from 9am to 4pm. For more information and to register for the conference visit:

Leave the Pack Behind

Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and run by Brock University, this program is currently operating in 24 universities and colleges. This comprehensive tobacco control program is not an anti-smoking campaign but an initiative to provide the campus with information on tobacco and smoking-related issues for young adults. The program began with Big Bang, an event held on November 1 at the Student Centre TV lounge to introduce the initiative to the campus community with food, music and prizes. Other events include movie nights and Let's Make A Deal, an upcoming contest that aims to support smokers to reduce or quit and help prevent non-smokers from picking up the habit. For more information visit: 

Sexual Health

This is the first wellness peer program to be organized on campus where students can discuss issues about birth control, barrier methods, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and healthy relationships. “There are concerns regarding the sexual health program, but it is important to know that this program does not promote sex, but rather provides information for students to be knowledgeable about issues that affect them. It encourages students to be a resource to themselves and others,” says Kiosses. It was organized with the support of Toronto Public Health and the Physical Education and Athletics departments, which help peer educators with displays and information on sexual health issues. For more information, contact the campus program coordinator, Sarah Waters-Schulte.

Nutritional Health

As another well-established initiative, the Nutritional health program has been designed to spread awareness about healthy eating choices. Peer educators set up displays and information sessions with resources provided by the Health and Wellness Centre. They also presented at Wellness Wednesdays, a program at the Residence Centre for students on campus.  Their workshops include learning about Canada’s Food Guide, dieting, metabolism and vegetarianism,to promote a healthy lifestyle. For more information, contact the campus program coordinator, Arjuna Thaskaran.

Swetha Chirravur is a fourth-year student in English and economics. She is currently serving as a work-study student in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

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