UGA Health Center preps for campus reopening

University plans for August start to fall semester

The demand for digital experiences skyrocketed in response to statewide, shelter-in-place orders this past spring. To continue engaging the University of Georgia community, the University Health Center expanded its BeWellUGA program to offer BeWellUGA at Home, a virtual hub of clinicians, instructors and coaches delivering online health and wellness content to a community following public health guidelines.

“Even though people are at home, they still have a need for different services, whether it’s nutrition, sexual health, mindfulness—all of these are still really important,” said Staci Belcher, a registered dietitian with UHC and certified yoga instructor.

In April, Belcher hosted a weekly, monthlong virtual yoga series that drew more than 100 registrants.

“I wanted to create a sense of community while also offering students a point of consistency as they faced a huge transition at the end of the semester,” she said.

Other popular programs from BeWellUGA at Home included a graduate and professional student well-being series centered on stress-reduction and gratitude, and a weekly nutrition series answering student-submitted questions.

“The effect on mental health during quarantine is really complex,” said Harrison Huang, a rising fourth-year classics major and member of the Student Health Advisory Committee. “It can be a difficult need to meet. So, the goal is to give out as much information in as many forms as we can.”

The student advisory committee serves as the bridge between UHC and the student body, conveying information back and forth and providing a platform for students to voice their needs.

“I fully expect additional mental health concerns to develop over the next few months as we transition into the fall,” Huang said.

UHC will continue growing its virtual offerings this fall through a combination of in-person and online programs, including mindfulness sessions, blog posts, fitness classes and nutrition workshops, just to name a few.

“Those face-to-face encounters are still significant,” said Kristine Groft, UHC’s senior communications coordinator. “We’re only offering in-person classes where we can control the environment and social distancing. But we also recognize that some individuals would rather engage virtually.”

As students, faculty and staff return to campus, the health of the Athens community is also a priority for the university. In addition to offering free, virtual programs and resources, UHC is encouraging everyone to do their part to keep UGA and Athens healthy through their UMatter campaign.

“UMatter is about understanding how the UGA community impacts Athens’s health care system and infrastructure,” said Groft. “We’re in a community that cares, and we should all look out for each other.”

The campaign emphasizes bystander intervention, preventive measures and self-awareness in an effort to reduce the spread COVID-19.

“I know that I want to have the best college experience possible,” Huang said. “But I also know I have to step back and understand my own personal responsibility in keeping myself and my community safe by social distancing, routinely washing my hands and wearing a face covering.”

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