ACHA Awarded $450K from CDC to Use Behavior Change to Reduce SARS-CoV-2 on College Campuses 

March 31, 2021

Community of Practice will cultivate a whole campus approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 at colleges and universities.

ACHA, in its role as the leading national college health organization, is bringing together a community of diverse disciplines within higher education to collaborate on reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission on college campuses and in their surrounding communities. This project, the Higher Education COVID-19 Community of Practice (HECCOP), is funded by a cooperative agreement award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HECCOP focuses on the topic of COVID-19 behavioral mitigation efforts, such as masking, handwashing, physical distancing, and testing. Through peer-to-peer collaborative activities, members of HECCOP will come together virtually to share information and innovative solutions, build knowledge, develop expertise, and solve problems aimed at reducing SARS-CoV-2. The community will include students and college health and wellness professionals as well as those in residence life, dining services, student affairs, athletics, recreation, facilities, and more.

In a fall 2020 survey of college health and wellness professionals, 89% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that taking personal protective measures can protect others in their campus community. However, only 46% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that students at their school were taking precautions to protect one another from COVID-19. This project can help shrink the gap between belief and action. 

HECCOP will provide several channels and strategies to facilitate collaboration and increase knowledge sharing. The COVID-19 Compendium Behavioral Change Approaches to Promote COVID-19 Mitigation Behaviors Among Students is already available; new programs are being added and the compendium will become a searchable online database. Eventually, a COVID-19 Student Ambassador Train-the-Trainer Toolkit will be available, and ACHA is providing an online discussion forum open to anyone interested in being part of the HECCOP and a free webinar series. ACHA members will be automatically subscribed to the discussion forum, hosted in ACHA Connect. Please watch your inbox for a welcome email with more details.

A growing list of partner organizations includes:

  • American Council on Education (ACE) 
  • APPA – Leadership in Educational Facilities 
  • Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I)
  • COVID Collaborative
  • NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
  • National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA)
  • NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation

“Depending on rates of COVID-19 on our campuses and in their surrounding communities, common sense risk mitigation practices such as washing our hands, wearing a mask, watching our distance, and regular testing are going to need to continue for the foreseeable future.” says Michael Huey, MD, Interim Chief Executive Officer of ACHA. “This project creates a space for campus personnel and students to come together and learn from each other, share what's working on their own campus, and be a part of the conversation on the behavioral change approaches that can make our campuses safer.”

To lead this project, ACHA has hired Heather Zesiger, PhD, MPH, MCHES, as the HECCOP Project Director. Prior to joining ACHA as a member of its staff, Heather was a long-standing member of the association. She was the Senior Director for Health Promotion at Emory University for over 12 years. She previously worked in health education at The New School and was a student health educator at Amherst College while an undergraduate. Heather completed her MPH at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and her PhD in public health at Georgia State University.