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Dr. Monica Webb appointed to American College Health Association board of directors

Dr. Monica Webb, director of GatorWell Health Promotion Services at the University of Florida, has been appointed to the American College Health Association board of directors. As one of four members-at-large, she will be a key liaison between the board and college health professionals from more than 800 institutions across the U.S. until 2024.

The American College Health Association, founded in 1920 and abbreviated ACHA, develops health and wellness initiatives and practices to support 20 million college students and advocates for equitable health access. In her new role, Webb will coordinate national initiatives to improve collegiate health and help develop unified responses to campus health trends.

She said a key focus will be the behaviors of college students, whose needs aren’t considered in health guidelines written for children or adults.

“The college years are the formative years for habits, but they’re also the years when an individual is searching for their identity – they’re coming into their own,” said Webb. “It’s such a transformative time that if we don’t take the opportunity to build those healthy behaviors, students can graduate with a degree, but not necessarily be set up for success.”

Previously, as the chair of the ACHA Healthy Campus Committee, Webb helped re-imagine a 30-year-old set of clinical objectives colleges and universities across the U.S. use to promote health in students. She and her team developed the goals into a flexible framework for institutions of all scales and resources, providing campus professionals a foundation from which to promote healthy behaviors using strategies tailored to their communities

“It doesn’t matter what type of institution you are, whether it’s a community college or a large public research university. You should be able to address the health and well-being of your campus,” she said. “We are all different. And priorities change from year to year. Each institution needs to make their own objectives based on the needs of their student body.”

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Revamping the Healthy Campus framework for institutions of all sizes was key to supporting the future of college health, Webb said. UF Division of Student Affairs photo by Matthew August

Webb added the new framework’s flexibility speaks to mental health challenges college students face in addition to maintaining their physical well-being. According to the spring 2020 National College Health Assessment, UF undergraduate and graduate students identified the top five barriers to their success as procrastination, stress, anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping.

“College well-being goes far beyond physical wellness and focuses on the intersectionality of these behaviors. For example, procrastination, stress and sleep difficulties all contribute to anxiety. And vice versa,” Webb said.

Webb also stressed that well-being also looks different among students. Disabilities and chronic conditions such as anxiety, asthma and autoimmune diseases play a role how individuals define wellness.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is have successful students. A big component of well-being is that it’s everyone’s ‘optimal,’” said Webb.

She added that her experience providing health leadership at UF will enable her to share new approaches with other members of the board.

“At UF, we often get phone calls from other institutions saying, ‘Hey, how are you guys addressing this?’ and we are so thankful for that. Whatever we can share, we are more than willing to because that’s how we improve as a society,” she said. “UF is an institution that is innovative over and over again, and I think that’s visible in the work we do and to others across the nation.”

Learn more about GatorWell.

Source: Monica Webb, mwebb@ufsa.ufl.edu