To advocate and educate — this is the goal of the University of New Mexico’s campus COVID-19 prevention team, the Lobo Prevention Pack. Students lead efforts to ensure that the campus community is not only safe but also accurately informed about the pandemic raging around them.
From spreading accurate information about COVID-19 when the pandemic started in March 2020 to educating others about vaccinations when those became available, this team has been adapting to new trends as the pandemic has progressed.
“These students are utilized as peer advocates here on our campus to not only educate about COVID — the different mutations, the different costs it has on our economy, precautionary measures, so forth and so on — but it’s also to advocate for students,” said Tiffany Martinez-Durant, Student Health and Counseling Health Promotion manager.
The Lobo Prevention Pack works with the dean’s office on certain COVID-19 prevention protocols to “make sure our students are taken care of,” according to member Olivia Moss.
The Lobo Prevention Pack is comprised of student ambassadors — students in the field of public health who work for class credit, holding either one- or two-semester commitments — and student influencers — voluntary members who help with a variety of things like events, social media and more. Because a large wave of student members recently graduated, the team will be welcoming a lot of new faces this spring.
“These are people who will be public health professionals. They have access to a lot of information and research that not the everyday person may have so they can share that with them as well, and just keep students up to date. They really try to be honest, timely, accurate,” Martinez-Durant said.
In July 2021, one of the team’s student ambassadors met with the U.S. Surgeon General to talk about COVID-19 on New Mexico college campuses. In addition, the Lobo Prevention Pack won the Lucy Outstanding Pack Award along with SHAC Health Promotion last June.
The team will be handing out medical-grade masks as the semester kicks off, per UNM’s updated mask policy requiring a three-ply or better medical-grade mask for all individuals when indoors on campus.
Seeing people wearing masks or getting vaccinated may encourage others to do the same, which is why peer-led advocacy works so well, according to Moss.
“Peer-led advocacy is actually really important when it comes to public health and community health and presenting a change. So peer-led advocacy is like, ‘Hey, for the good of everyone, this is why we’re doing this’ … Peer-led advocacy for COVID-19 prevention has worked really well for us,” Moss said.
There are many sources of misinformation regarding the pandemic and the Lobo Prevention Pack attempts to combat this by putting out accurate, truthful information about what’s going on, according to Martinez-Durant. She warned students to be careful of counterfeit masks, which are currently circulating online. The team also addresses how COVID-19 affects other areas in life, such as physical or mental health.
Martinez-Durant said the Lobo Prevention Pack brings about “a sense of community for our students — letting them know that they’re not alone.”
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It’s easy at this point in the pandemic for people to feel like they’re isolated, but this team proves that they’re not, according to Moss.
“People your age are still caring about this. People are still fighting for COVID-19 prevention … Students are fighting for their rights on campus because we do (help) make decisions as students,” Moss said.
The pandemic has been difficult for college students especially, who feel like they’ve been deprived of what is “supposed to be the best time of your life,” according to Martinez-Durant. Something that helped with this last semester was when the Lobo Prevention Pack organized safe social outings to maintain a sense of community.
Still, SHAC has seen a large increase in the use of mental health services during the pandemic, according to Martinez-Durant.
“It’s hard to have something ahead of you that you have no control over, and that’s what causes a lot of stress and resentment and worry and all those other negative feelings,” Martinez-Durant said.
Even though people are tired of the pandemic, Martinez-Durant emphasized the importance of keeping up with precautionary measures to stay safe.
“If we can just have our students be there for each other — educating, teaching, advocating for them, giving them precautionary measures — hopefully, that can help students just have that feeling that, ‘Okay, we’re in this together,’” Martinez-Durant said. “And that’s why we have Vax the Pack, Protect the Pack — we are a pack. We’re here to combat this pandemic together, but if we don’t do it together, we’re going to continue this cycle of uncertainty.”
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716