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Editor’s Note: This piece is an introduction to four student essays about their experiences in the Health 1, 2, 3 program. This program, described below, is a hallmark of the Human Health program and reaches every incoming Emory freshman.

College poses a unique opportunity to influence positive health practices of emerging adults at a critical transition period in their lives. Thus, the innovative Health 1, 2, 3 Program was developed to help Emory students to take an active role in their health starting their first semester and aims to influence the practice of healthy behaviors. The program consists of a series of three courses that begin freshman year and span the entire undergraduate experience.

Here’s how the program works: All first-year students take Health 100 during their initial semester, providing a foundation of evidence-based knowledge surrounding timely health topics such as sleep and goal setting coupled with engagement in the classroom fostered by peer leaders. Those interested in becoming peer leaders enroll in Health 200, where they are further educated in the science of health and trained on how to lead peers in discussions, as well as how to serve as a positive role models to support students navigating health as freshman in a new environment. Health 300 is the final course in the program, where effectively trained students become peer leaders, known as Peer Health Partners (PHPs), and facilitate weekly discussions with Health 100 students, under faculty supervision. By design, each course translates evidence-based knowledge to encourage students to apply learned concepts to their lived college experiences to enhance health across the span of their lifetimes.

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Health 1, 2, 3 Student Experiences with Health — Audio Vignette Assignment

As promoting positive health practices and supporting those making health-related changes are key components of each course in the Health 1, 2, 3 Program, the program faculty were interested in capturing how students’ personal health has specifically been influenced through participation in the program, beyond what is measured through standard course assessments. Therefore, in the spring of 2018, we designed and piloted an audio vignette extra credit assignment in Health 200, which provided a subset of students in the program the optional opportunity to share how their health has been positively affected through taking Health 100 (the introductory health course) or Health 200 (the peer training course). For the assignment, students were to select one health concept, strategy, or idea addressed in Health 100 or Health 200 and talk us through how it influenced their health as a college student, specifically, in less than 10 minutes. Stories were audio recorded and shared with course instructors.

We were pleased to receive submissions from 82 of 84 enrolled students, with stories spanning most of the topics covered in Health 100 or 200 –  from sleep, to stress, to goal setting, to behavior change strategies. It was evident that students spent considerable time analyzing their experiences to pick out the concept that impacted them most, and it was enjoyable hearing them articulate their stories. The highlight for us, personally, were the striking connections made between course content and each students’ health journey, confirming program intentions. Four of the vignettes have been selected to share here, with student permission. Please note that for quality purposes, they have been transcribed from their audio versions.

Ultimately, these stories provide first hand insight into the relevance and feasibility of practicing healthy behaviors in college, signifying that topics covered in the Health 1, 2, 3 are pertinent and meaningful to students lived experiences. Our hope is that these personal narratives shed light into the effectiveness of the Health 1, 2, 3 program concerning the ability to influence student health, and, perhaps most importantly, inspire you to be an active participant in your health