Dedicated to bettering the health of our community, the University of Rhode Island’s Public Health Club is working hands-on to raise awareness and give back to frontline workers this semester.

The Public Health Club is a project-based organization that helps to raise awareness and better public health on campus and throughout Rhode Island. Junior Lili Klayman, the current president of the club, said that their focus is to “figure out good things we can do to improve our community.”

Junior Owen Manahan, the founder of the Public Health Club, said that the club works hand-in-hand with the Rhode Island Public Health Association (RIPHA) in order to accomplish their goals.

“Through the RIPHA, they have chapter clubs at different schools,” Manahan said. “Right now there’s one at URI, Providence College and Roger Williams [University]. Johnson and Wales is in the process of creating one. It’s nice to have a network of groups of students with the same mottos and goals.”

The club is open to all students, not just those in health-related majors. Current members include theater, gender studies, sports communications and kinesiology majors, according to Klayman.

The work that the club does varies from hosting events to service projects. According to Klayman, some of the events they’ve done in the past include clothes drives, beach clean ups and events focused on women’s health. Amid the pandemic, the group has also helped clean up littered masks in the local community and on campus.

This semester, the club has focused more on giving back and showing their gratitude for first responders and other local heroes. 

“We wrote thank you cards to the custodial staff at URI because people like that are very underappreciated,” Klayman said. “Instead of doing a classic educational campaign about the virus, we took a different approach by thanking our first responders.” 

Despite its name, the club isn’t focused solely on health. It’s more service-based and focused on bettering our community, according to the members.

“The club isn’t really centered around clinical health,” Klayman said. “Anything could be considered public health. We try to do what we can in our little community to do better and make our campus cleaner.”

One challenge that the club has faced due to COVID-19 and the increase of virtual programming is retention and attendance at club meetings. According to Klayman, attendance really varies week to week, making it harder for them to maintain consistency. It has also made scheduling their projects and events more difficult. 

“Clubs are such a relationship-based thing, and you go for the human connection as well as the actual cause you’re working for,” Manahan said.
He attributes this to the hurdle of retention and lack of attendance.

With the pandemic and online classes, many students have opted to stay at home this semester, which has been challenging for such a hands-on organization like the Public Health Club. According to Klayman, students currently at home for the semester have been working in their own communities by participating in their own beach clean ups and dropping off letters at their own local hospitals.

Being such a project-based club, the pandemic has made it hard to spread awareness on various topics. 

“Doing public health online is different,” Manahan said. “Normally we can do events where we can have tables with visuals and different activities, but doing that kind of thing right now is really difficult.”