Health campaign aims to make students ‘health nuts’
They are everywhere. Plastered to tack boards, flashing on televisions, slipped into napkin holders and floating around on fliers; and they have students talking.
NAU Health Promotions decided to use a cartoon squirrel to revamp the social norms campaign this year, which aims to spread awareness regarding healthier habits in unhealthy behaviors. Many advertisements address drug and alcohol use, sex and exercise.
Stacie Leach, a graduate assistant from Health Promotions, said the previous campaign needed a face lift to get students interested in thinking healthy, even if their behavior wasn’t.
“We did have a social norm campaign prior to this,” Leach said. “We did notice looking at some of our old posters that people have seen them and know them. But how can we take it up to that second notch where more people know and more people see? We know they’re succeeding when students say something about it.”
Leach said the campaign numbers are put together through the use of the American College Health Association’s National Collegiate Health Assessment (NCHA) survey as well as the Health and Wellness survey NAU conducts, obtained through the Office of the Registrar. This semester’s statistics only represented information from the NCHA survey though.
According to Leach, the NCHA survey typically records 1,200 answers out of a pool of 4,000 students and organizes information between graduate and undergraduate students as well as by gender.
“So, it’s a statistically significant representation of the student body,” Leach said.
Leach added the campaign largely tries to dispel rumors of social activities among students on college campuses.
Caitlin Jenkins, a senior public relations major, said she has noticed the ads but always questioned the validity.
“I thought they were funny. [My friends and I] didn’t think they were truthful,” Jenkins said. “I was indifferent to [the squirrel].”
Jenkins added she thinks the way the ads are presented to the student population is better than setting up a booth or students around to survey.
Derek Hansen, the marketing coordinator at NAU, helped create the artwork for the campaign. He said the squirrel idea came from observing what other schools used in their promotions and the benefits squirrel humor brought to the campaign’s language.
“We just had a really fun time. The squirrel seems to fit more with the Lumberjack . . . and that whole outdoor culture,” Hansen said. “But a lot of [the sayings] are a little edgy and double entendre. Things that are kind of fun and help people think and do a double take.”
Donovan Mak, a junior psychology major, said the campaign looks pretty successful but he always doubts the message in comparison to what he sees on campus.
“I say the squirrels are really cute, but the statistics seem extremely misleading,” Mak said. “I think they should get a larger sample size.”
Hansen said the campaign has proved to be a useful way to communicate with students about the realities of campus life.
“It’s to help students understand maybe they’re really not alone. They don’t have to get sucked in to what they think is the group scene,” Hansen said. “So far, it’s been pretty successful. I think students are able to relate to it a little better than a center for disease control kind of administrative statement.”
Leach said improvements are always being considered for the campaign. End-of-the-semester surveys will let the health promotions office gauge the campaign’s overall reception.
“We know the best feedback mechanism is [when] people are stealing [fliers],” Leach said. “But this is our first year having the health nut social norms campaign, so really a lot of it is getting it out there; getting it seen. We’re implementing ‘Ask the Health Nuts’ which is a program . . . so students can submit questions to ask the ‘health nuts’ and we’ll answer it for them.”
Hansen said the campaign, used similarly by other colleges, is a great way for students to remember important tips a find out the truth about campus life.
“It’s an opportunity for the university to debunk the myths of social activities that happen on campus,” Hansen said. “So far it’s been pretty successful. That’s been a fun way to approach the sensitive topics.”