The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday February 2nd

What's medicine doing in that vending machine?

Vending machines selling medication added around UNC's campus

DTH Photo Illustration. Students can now purchase over-the-counter medications at the newly installed medicine vending machines located in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union and Rams Head Recreation Center.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Students can now purchase over-the-counter medications at the newly installed medicine vending machines located in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union and Rams Head Recreation Center.

Vending machines on UNC's campus will soon be useful for more than the occasional snack. 

“Healthy Heels to Go” vending machines will offer over-the-counter medication around campus. The first vending machine can now be found on the main floor of the Student Union.

Amy Sauls, the director of pharmacy and professional services at Campus Health, said medications in the vending machines will include Acetaminophen/Tylenol, Ibuprofen, cough and cold medications and allergy medications like Claritin and Zyrtec. Self-care items like lip balm, Kleenex and Band-Aids will also be available in the vending machines. 

The prices of the items will range between $2 and $15 and will be payable via OneCard, Sauls said. 

The idea for the vending machines originated from Campus Health, but students in ENGL 304,  Advanced Business Communication, acted as consultants to flesh the idea out further, Sierra Winters, a graduate student at N.C. State studying English literature, said. 

Winters said she lived on South Campus during her first year as a UNC undergraduate, and the distance between her dorm and Franklin Street made it harder for her to access necessary over-the-counter medications. 

“It would have been nice to have something like that that’s closer and cheaper rather than me having to take my sick self to CVS and different places like that,” Winters said. 

Sauls said a big part of launching the vending machines was to make accessing the medicines easier for students. 

“We’ve received feedback from students and parents that were trying to get medications, maybe in the late evening or on the weekends when Campus Health was not open, or Student Stores was not open, and that it would be nice to more easily access some of those self-care medications that are needed after business hours,” Sauls said. 

Arizona State University and Florida State University are among other public universities that have medicine vending machines, according to USA Today

Susan Irons, the professor of ENGL 304, said the class's collaboration with Campus Health was an exceptional learning partnership. 

“It was greatly rewarding to watch a group of students enthusiastically address issues that could benefit their peers," Irons said in an email. "Their most valuable resource was their student perspective. They worked incredibly hard, did their research and came up with a detailed plan." 

The group felt that peer voices were vital in developing the vending machine concept, Winters said.

“We were mainly getting the student perspective, seeing what students thought about having these machines on campus, what kind of products they would like to have in them, and what places would be more beneficial for students,” Winters said. 

To collect answers to these questions, Winters and her team of consultants interviewed students and used quiz and survey techniques to gather input from different backgrounds and social spheres at UNC. 

“I was able to just ask different friends that I had in the English department," Winters said. "We had an international student so she got to ask her friends, and then we also released some of the quizzes to different Facebook groups like ‘Class of 2020’ and things like that.” 

Sauls said that the goal of the project is to make medications and self-care items as accessible as possible. 

“I think if it makes a student do more of what they want to do, whether its studying longer in the library, or not having to worry about Ubering somewhere for a medication, then that’s really our goal: to have these medications we know are helpful for self-care as available as possible,” she said. 

The first machine is now operating on main floor lobby of the Student Union outside of the Art Gallery, Sauls said. A second machine will be available at Rams Head Recreation Center in the future. 


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