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HALEC helps people learn to become virtual health advocates

By Krishna Shetye, October 28 2020 —

University of Calgary clubs have survived, even thrived, in reaching out to students despite the lack of in-person interaction this semester. Clubs have launched multiple initiatives to build community sentiment and to continue offering students unique opportunities to get involved in things they feel passionate about. 

The Health Advocacy and Leadership Engagement Club (HALEC) in particular plans to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to raise awareness about the social factors that continue to affect public health in marginalized communities. This offers students the unique opportunity to advocate for public health by tackling the social determinants of health that exist in marginalized Black and Indigenous communities, all while remaining remote.

“This is a club that addresses a wide-range of topics and social issues that are interrelated with health,” said co-president of HALEC Kate McLennan. “We want to make learning about and advocating for health more accessible to students outside of the Health Sciences faculty.” 

McLennan and the HALEC executives heavily encourage students from all faculties and backgrounds to get involved with this exciting organization.

“We hope that bringing people together can put ideas into action,” she said. “The author and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer says that ‘Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention. If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable.’”

Drawing from Kimmerer’s philosophy, HALEC hopes to “build a community that values accountability in [their] personal and professional pursuits.” Some unique initiatives within the club include a policy blog where members can be “updated on current projects and health policies under review.”

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In separating HALEC from other campus advocacy groups, McLennan wishes to include “ a comprehensive discussion of intersectionality,”  that is missing in other initiatives.

“We are trying to facilitate work that ultimately challenges the status quo in universities.”

To combat the difficulties in spreading their initiative due to the pandemic, HALEC plans on utilizing “social media platforms and apps like Ivy and other online resources.”

The club also has ads airing on CJSW and NuTV to spread the word. 

HALEC also has numerous virtual events and workshops planned to build conversation around social justice issues regarding public health.

“We have a series of workshops coming up about how to talk to people who disagree with you about common social justice issues,” noted McLennan. “[The first event] will be practicing argumentation techniques and informal debating to address common devil’s advocate talking points about Covid-19 and mask wearing. For other events, we are also planning on having guest speakers who do advocacy work in the community.”

For more information on HALEC, visit their website.

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