GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Students and staff at the University of Florida are teaming up with city leaders to promote healthy habits on and off-campus.

The goal of the project “Healthy Gainesville” is to normalize healthy behaviors for college students while supporting local businesses in their desire to stay open and stick to COVID safety guidelines during the pandemic.

The initiative includes partnering with local businesses to display what the team at UF is calling “swag”-- posters, coasters, stickers, shirts, and more -- inside and outside of the bars and other hotspots --- with the aim of relatably promoting COVID-safe habits to students.

“We really wanted to go beyond just posting something on the door or making a public announcement-- we wanted to integrate ourselves into the behavior patterns ... and so for that reason, you will see more than just posters-- you will see a lot of different collateral that can be used inside and outside these hotspot locations,” said researcher and strategist on the project, Steph Strickland.

The research part of the project took over 12 weeks and it included interviews and surveys with bar owners as well as college students surrounding how they felt their peers could better communicate the enforcement of healthy behaviors.

“We compiled all of that research in order to create environmental measures ... which is essentially a product, a piece of collateral, that encourages positive behavior as appose to discouraging negative behavior,” said Strickland.

The project, if approved, would be funded by the city. There is no current target for what that amount would look like.

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City Manager Lee Feldman says it will be a fresh outlook and tool in the enforcement of COVID safety in Gainesville.

“I am excited about it. I think it is cutting-edge. I think that this is not only a model that other university and college towns can try to replicate but I also think it’s a good model for us to look at for other issues where we have to work on public communication in non-conventional ways.”

Feldman says he hopes to have a decision concerning this project within the next week.

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