Technicolor WHAT Hut tours campus

Students push for health advocacy across diverse populations

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The What Hut, where students share health and wellness information, set up in the Engineering Plaza on Monday, March 6. Silvia Cardullo/PSU Vanguard

Gray skies don’t mean a thing to six Portland State undergraduate peer health educators who are passionate about spreading the word on health and wellness. The Wellness and Health Action Team, a team from PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling, has created a venue for peer health education called the WHAT Hut, aiming to make learning about health fun and interactive for students. Although WHAT has been around for three years, the WHAT Hut is a new program which directly interacts with students from the Hut.

A multicolored canopy tent is set up at varying locations around campus on Mondays and Thursdays through March 14 with specific locations available at the group’s website. Members offer information about health-related topics and resources at PSU, which include healthy decision making, long-term health strategies, and advocating for changing campus policies to further student health and wellness.

“The WHAT Hut is designed for PSU students and powered by student health educators,” explained Siiri Visto, a WHAT member. “[It] will be an interactive and approachable way of learning relevant health issues that impact students’ academic and personal lives.”

PSU is a diverse campus with students from various walks of life; making those students universally well-informed about health and wellness topics and techniques is difficult. That’s what the WHAT Hut aims to tackle: misinformed or uninformed students on campus.

“For me, it’s also about giving students not just information resources, but physical resources as well,” said Darius Ortega, a health studies major at PSU and peer health educator at WHAT, when asked why the WHAT Hut was integral to campus health. “[It] has a lot of other services that aren’t just limited to educating people but also helping them navigate their own health and become more comfortable themselves.”

Ortega and Visto were at the WHAT Hut on Feb. 20 and provided free-for-all refreshments alongside condoms, hand-sanitizer, lube, health bars, and various contact information and pamphlets. They also had a Wheel of Fortune-like game beside the Hut, where WHAT’s members would engage with passerby students.

“It’s so important that it’s a student or peer-powered mission,” said Anna Greenhoe, an instructor for the Intensive English Language program at PSU. “The Kickoff event was to introduce PSU to the WHAT Hut, and moving forward, we at WHAT want to emphasize to students that health information and education is openly accessible. I think it also says a lot when it’s coming from other students too, not just from teachers or doctors, or other people in positions of power.”

Through the WHAT Hut, Visto also hopes to garner more involvement in SHAC events and discussions led by WHAT. SHAC and WHAT hope to help PSU navigate the maze of mental, sexual, and physical health through the promotion of positive body image, sleep, and stress management.

According to its website, the WHAT team’s goals are to give students absolute accessibility with health information: “Providing accurate information about relevant health and wellness topics; acting as a student referral source for services provided by SHAC and other related departments at [PSU]; facilitating visibility of student health and wellness at multiple, high-trafficked areas on campus, including the monthly Student Health 101 online magazine; collaborating with and participating in a variety of campus events and departments.”

The WHAT Hut is student accessible and will be on campus on Mondays from 12:30–2:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9:30–11:30 a.m..

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