More Universities and Colleges have considered hiring Chief Health Officers (CHO) as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Some responsibilities of the CHO would be to lead campus health and safety measures, create connections with state and local hospitals, and be the voice of information to students, employees and parents.
Dr. Preeti Malani has been CHO at the University of Michigan since 2017 and is a great role model for someone who is considering taking on this position.
Dr. Malani has been highly visible throughout this outbreak, sharing safety tips on social media, appearing in a number of interviews, and participating on coronavirus task forces.
When a school feels strongly about a certain topic, they create an executive role around it, like a Chief Diversity Officer for example. Now, health is an imperative issue that should be properly addressed.
“The mere appointment of a CHO would send a strong message about the school’s commitment not only to the well being of its students, faculty, and staff but also to the health of the public at large,” said Malani.
After the pandemic passes, Malani hopes her visibility at the University of Michigan will help her make progress on other college health issues like vaccines, health-care equity and student mental health.
Dr. Benoit Dubé is the Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) at The University of Pennsylvania. He’s part of a Recovery Planning group tasked with examining the elements needed to be in place to allow a safe return to more normal campus operations.
Dr. Dubé explains the best approach for reducing COVID-19 transmission is to follow a hybrid in-person and online semester model. The University is also mandating the flu vaccine this fall.
Ohio State University’s CWO, Bernadette Melnyk developed several anxiety-reducing strategies to use to help manage and prevent the spread of this infectious disease. She created a webinar video Key Strategies for Relieving Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Melnyk also created the acronym COPE COVID:
Control the things that you can, not the things you can't
Open up and share your feelings
Practice daily stress reduction tactics, including physical activity
Engage in mindfulness; be here now; worry will not help!
Count your blessings daily
Overturn negative thoughts to positive
Volunteer to help others
Identify helpful supports and resources
Do your part to prevent spread of the virus
Schools that don't have the resources to bring on a CHO can try other options, like working with local and state health agencies, hiring a health consultant, and partnering with close institutions or academic medical centers.