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Colleges share ideas, strategies for health and safety education programs

- April 17, 2006

More than 125 students and educators representing colleges across New England gathered at the Bishop Center on April 7-8 for a conference to share information on peer education and strategies to help college students succeed.

The event, the Area 10 BACCHUS and GAMMA regional conference, was coordinated by the Health Education Office at Student Health Services.

Founded in 1975, The BACCHUS Network is a nonprofit public corporation whose mission is to promote peer-to-peer strategies as effective tools in health and safety education and prevention programs. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the organization.

“The BACCHUS Network is designed to actively promote student- and young adult-based, campus and community-wide leadership on healthy and safe lifestyle decisions concerning alcohol abuse, tobacco use, illegal drug use, unhealthy sexual practices, and other high-risk behaviors,” says Joleen Nevers, a health educator at UConn and long-time member of BACCHUS.

BACCHUS and GAMMA have received acclaim for their social norms conferences, open to both educators and students, which are adaptable to any health context.

When properly implemented, the social norms approach is based on evidence, driven by data, and very cost-effective in achieving widespread, positive results, Nevers says.

The conference at UConn included a Certified Peer Educator Program, for which BACCHUS and GAMMA have a specific method and certification process.

BACCHUS and GAMMA members, recognizing the consistently positive results of peer education, have been proponents of this method of instruction for years.

The process covers such core skills as listening and confrontation, presentation skills, and stress management.

The Health Education office at UConn has had a BACCHUS and GAMMA peer education group since 1999.

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