Attention students: Fill out a health screening, win a prize

Rather than simply penalizing those who don't complete a daily health screening, the University of Kentucky has added an incentive to reward students for high compliance.

Student compliance with safety measures on reopened campuses is key to their remaining open. One such protocol is the daily health screening, and although it’s quick and easy students may forget or become lax about the to-do. That’s where the University of Kentucky’s “Cats Above 90 Daily Screening” incentive comes into play.

Any student completing at least 90% of the daily screenings each month this fall gets entered into a random drawing with 50 prizes: 20 nylon hammocks that can be used around campus and 30 $5 gift cards for coffee.

UB checked in with Chief Marketing Officer Julie Balog about the effort, which was her brainchild and likely helped in the university reaching more than 70% compliance for September.

UB: What role did you play in coming up with campus reopening plans?
Balog: Our team, along with many others across campus, helped develop and implement the healthy behaviors campaign that was launched in conjunction with the students returning to campus. The goal was to raise awareness of the healthy best practices to help avoid COVID-19 as well as creating opportunities to promote safe activities students could enjoy on and around campus.

UB: How long would you say it takes for each student to fill out the health screening each day?
Balog: If the student is not exhibiting any symptoms, it takes less than 30 seconds to complete the symptom checker. If they do develop symptoms, it may take a couple of minutes. The information will then be flagged by our health corps group, who will follow up with a phone call to the student. The questions are simple—are you caring for or have you been around anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19? Or, are you feeling ill? If yes to any of those questions, you will be asked to provide more detail.

UB: Do staff also need to complete the same screening?
Balog: We ask all students, staff and faculty who may venture to campus for any reason to participate in the daily screening.

UB: What concerns did University of Kentucky officials have about getting students to participate in regular screenings?
Balog: No concerns, per se. We just know that daily screenings are critically important in keeping our campus safe. And, when asking a student to do something daily, it can become easy to forget to do it one day, and then the next and suddenly it is no longer part of your morning routine.

UB: Why did offering prizes to help students comply with the screening requirement make sense to you?
Balog: We are trying really hard to not just talk to the students about what they can’t do, but to be creative with them about the things they can do. And this idea was an extension of that. Students who don’t comply do receive a follow up from our health corps after three consecutive days of not participating. But instead of leaning in on the punitive approach, we wanted to incentive them too. We took that approach around campus as well. We have wellness huts that are available around campus to provide masks, hand sanitizer and other items to students. We also asked our wellness ambassadors who are working at those booths to recognize our students who are complying with our guidelines and reward them with items, such as blankets, keychains, hats, etc.

UB: Did you try to see if other colleges were doing this to get ideas for executing the idea?
Balog: No. This was an idea that came from brainstorming efforts, guided by the philosophy of incentivizing where we can to help foster success and compliance.

UB: What was involved in making it come to fruition?
Balog: The tech support team had to help ensure that we could pull the list every 30 days of the eligible students, which they were able to do relatively easily. Then, we selected prizes that were fun and different. And, our communications team stepped in and helped us promote it on social and other channels.

UB: How did you come up with the prizes?
Balog: Our big prize each month is a UK-branded outdoor hammock. Our students love to hammock, and we even added hammock gardens around campus to give them safe places to visit what practicing distancing. We installed about a half dozen of them around the campus. The frames are movable so if we see one area is not being used as much, we can relocate the frames easily. We also offer gift cards for coffee and food—which is always a hit with students. The marketing budget is covering the cost.

UB: Why was a hammock a particularly appropriate prize for a student to win this school year?
Balog: Like most good ideas, this one originated with our students. They shared ideas with us about what they like to do and hanging out, literally, with their friends was a favorite thing to do. We thought offering hammocks was an ideal way to connect with them.

UB: Are the leaders in participation being called out in any way?
Balog: The winners will be announced in the weekly student newsletter that goes out and recognized on social media. We are finding our students want to do the right thing. We just want to make it rewarding as well.

Learn more about UK’s reopening protocols, featuring do-your-part compliance suggestions such as: “Sing the UK fight song while you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.”

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of UB. 

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