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Our Work

At the UHS Health Promotion Office, we know that promoting positive well-being is fundamental to students’ academic success and can create deeper learning experiences and meaningful engagement. I believe we have a responsibility to cultivate student flourishing, connectedness, mindfulness, resilience, grit, purpose, belonging, and self-compassion so that our students can become ever better.

While students ultimately have an individual responsibility for their own health, they will be significantly more successful if the environments which they live and learn in are centered around well-being. Rather than self-care, I believe we need to emphasize community oriented and compassion centered care. This approach will begin to create a culture where our living environments, classrooms, programs, services, policies, and people all work together to support student well-being.

Our approach to health promotion is systems- and settings-based. Rather than solely focusing on individual level programs and interventions, we will investigate how various systems (policies, social norms, allocation of resources) and settings (classrooms, residence halls, student spaces) either help or hinder student flourishing. We intend to work collaboratively, understanding this work is far greater than our reach, to engage stakeholders and colleagues across campus to jointly plan, coordinate efforts, share information and lessons learned, and identify new and innovative ways to embed well-being into university systems and settings.

The development of this inaugural Health Promotion Strategic Framework represents an intentional shift in how health promotion is practiced at the University of Rochester. Our goal is to create a thriving culture of well-being for our campus community, leading a collaborative and integrated initiative. Addressing the needs of a diverse student population, we aim to advance a comprehensive, inclusive, and progressive student wellness model which creates the conditions for all students to flourish.


Amy McDonald, MS, CHWP
Director, UHS Health Promotion Office

The work of the Health Promotion Office centers around four priority action areas.  Their creation occurred after significant consideration and were intentionally guided by multiple surveys of students; focus groups with students, faculty, and staff; interviews with content experts; and a review of over 30 journal articles, white papers, and reports.

The Okanagan Charter was also influential in the development of our priority action areas, particularly as it pertains to being an advocate for well-being focused policy changes, creating supportive living and learning environments, supporting students’ personal development through health education programming, and cultivating a campus culture of well-being where students can truly thrive.

For a full description of each priority action area, along with our key performance indicators, refer to our Strategic Framework below.

Create Supportive Campus Environments

The well-being of a student does not exist in isolation. There is an undeniable link between campus environments and the students who live in them. The spaces where a student sleeps, eats, learns, and connects all influence their capacity to flourish. Therefore, we must consider how we can create campus environments that support students, rather than ones which create barriers to and hinder their well-being. We will focus on six primary environments, assessing ways in which we have the capacity to infuse well-being into them via our programs, services, or other interventions.

Cultivate Student Flourishing

We aim to take a whole student approach when addressing student mental health, identifying ways in which we can cultivate student flourishing, rather than solely focusing on the absence of depression, anxiety, or stress. We will utilize the evidence-based practice of social-emotional learning as a foundation to create supportive programming for students. Building on that, our initiatives to cultivate flourishing will also teach students how to achieve psychological flexibility, incorporating mindfulness, acceptance, equanimity, gratitude, and valued engagement.

Advocate for Health Equity

To successfully advocate for health equity, we must first identify important health disparities within our student population. Starting with a robust data set and then disaggregating the data will allow us to better understand the needs of students with marginalized identities. Then we will be able to explore ways to change and implement policies, programs, services, and practices to reduce inequities in the opportunities and resources needed to achieve optimal well-being.

Support Personal Development

Health education and disease prevention programming has been the primary focus of the Health Promotion Office for decades, and it will continue to be an integral part of our work moving forward. We aim to develop and create opportunities to build competence and personal capacity so students can reach their full potential. The foundation of our work is centered around a community development approach, recognizing the robust strengths and competencies of our students. We must look to our students to identify and define their struggles and understand that we as professionals are resources rather than problem solvers, as each student is ultimately responsible for their own health and well-being.

The strategic framework is our vision for the work of the Health Promotion Office throughout the next four academic years. It outlines the various programmatic components for each priority action area, provides outcome metrics and key performance indicators, and discusses our plan for collective action with our campus partners. There are two versions available for download, a PDF as well as a fully accessible Word document. For an overview of our strategic framework, see our HPO Strategy Overview.

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