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Health Services MPH Students Fight for UW Student Health Insurance

Health Services MPH Students Fight for UW Student Health Insurance

In Spring 2017, Darragh Kerr and Sharon Hwee were students in HSERV 590: Public Health Leadership, Planning and Advocacy, a course taught by Dr. Amy Hagopian and Dr. Bill Daniell. In this class, groups of 2-5 students work on “real-world” projects with an agency partner.

Sharon and Darragh, along with classmates Bridget Whelan and Noelia Flores, worked with Patricia Atwater, alumna and Director of Health Promotion at Hall Health, to create and administer an online survey of nearly 3,900 UW-Seattle students, to assess student health care needs and insurance status. One significant finding is that nearly 40% of insured students and 70% of uninsured students reported postponing health care due to cost. The survey also found that 4.4% of students did not have any health insurance coverage, and many more were likely underinsured. Students of color and students identifying as LGBTQ reported more barriers to receiving care, and more medical debt.

Darragh asserts, “Health is integral to academic success, and without equitable opportunities for health, students at UW do not have an equitable opportunity to succeed.”

Darragh and Sharon decided to continue their organizing work outside of the classroom by founding Huskies for Health Insurance, a new student, faculty, and staff group. HHI’s mission is to advocate for a student health insurance program to reduce health disparities and increase health equity on campus. The group’s co-founders include Patricia Atwater and Dr. Bill Daniell.

“All UW students should have access to health care if and when they need it,” Sharon asserts. “As students, Darragh and I think this is an important issue. Many other students we've talked to agree, so now we are working on demonstrating to the President and the Provost that this issue matters."

Learn more about Huskies for Health Insurance and find the online petition here: https://www.facebook.com/huskiesforhealthinsurance; or contact Huskies for Health Insurance directly at uwhhi@uw.edu