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UNO honored by Obama administration for healthy campus food

Anna Gowin

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On Sept. 27, the Obama administration issued the White House Healthy Campus Challenge to colleges across the country. Of the 350 campuses that accepted the challenge, the University of New Orleans was one of the 60 able to visit the White House upon completion in early January.

Reagan Laiche, executive assistant to the dean of student affairs, was one of the three university employees able to travel to Washington D.C. as an organizer of the challenge.

“Of the 350 schools that applied, 100 successfully completed the requirements of the challenge, and then 60 were invited to the White House,” said Laiche.

The White House Healthy Campus Challenge was created as a way for campuses across the country to make students aware of President Obama’s healthcare law.

According to a White House press release, the challenge was a way of institutionalizing enrollment on campuses for future enrollment periods.

“The year prior, the White House had issued the Healthy Communities Challenge, where different cities tried to complete similar challenges to what campuses were doing,” Laiche said.

The winner of the 2015 Healthy Communities Challenge was Milwaukee, which, according to the Obama White House Archives, saw 38,000 people select plans during the 2015 open enrollment period.

UNO was required to complete a series of challenges: to table with information about “Obamacare” enrollment at a high-traffic campus event, to utilize social media to inform students about “Obamacare” coverage options, and to take some additional step to provide information regarding “Obamacare” to students.

Laiche said that the UNO team used the school PIN network (which is responsible for what appears on the television screens across campus), a campus-wide email to students and faculty and a link to information about the health care law in the weekly campus newsletter, in addition to tabling  at Get to Know UNO last fall.

“The completion date was December 15, which was the deadline to apply for coverage that would begin on January 1 [2017],” Laiche added.

At the Healthy Campus Challenge Day celebration, former first lady Michelle Obama met representatives of the winning campuses in the East Room of the White House.

Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Management Karen Paisant said that the day also included two panel discussions, remarks from Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett to President Obama, and the presentation of certificates to challenge winners.

The group from UNO also got the opportunity to engage with other campuses about their challenge experiences by splitting into regional groups, according to Paisant.

Regarding the current instability of “Obamacare” under the Trump administration, Laiche said she was unsure whether the challenge is ever something UNO will be able to take part in again.

“If they do decide to issue this challenge or a similar one again, we would gladly be willing to participate.”

Paisant said that the university did gain more from the experience than the opportunity to visit the White House, UNO has been officially recognized as a White House Healthy Campus.

“We hope that this recognition will help us increase the awareness of the importance of  health insurance coverage within our university community … and more importantly, [the program] allowed students to pause and reassess their current health insurance situation.”

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The student news site of the University of New Orleans
UNO honored by Obama administration for healthy campus food