Wednesday, November 22

Editorial: Health product vending machines would make resources more accessible


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UCLA students can work out at the John Wooden Center or do homework at The Study at Hedrick virtually any time of the day. But when it comes to accessing health and hygiene-related products 24 hours a day, students are out of luck.

The Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center provides students various health and hygiene products, ranging from cold medications to over-the-counter birth control, at subsidized costs. But while these products are conveniently sold at limited prices, students’ access to these medications is limited to business hours.

It’s a different story at UC Davis, however. Earlier this year, the campus debuted a “Wellness to Go” vending machine in its activities center, which gives students increased access to health products such as Plan B contraceptives, tampons and aspirin.

UCLA should implement similar health product vending machines on campus. Installing these machines would make it easier for students to access the resources they need, while addressing the campus’ lack of 24-hour access to health products – a serious concern for students needing late-night access to medications or contraceptives.

Like UC Davis, UCLA could use the vending machines to sell a diverse array of healthcare products, such as pain relievers, small packages of condoms and menstrual hygiene products. Dispensing discounted over-the-counter medications such as emergency contraception and first aid supplies should be a priority, as students often need access to these after business hours.

The main purpose of the vending machines would be to increase the accessibility of Ashe’s already-subsidized medications. Plan B, for example, can cost from $40 to $50 at most pharmacies, but the Bruin Health Pharmacy offers it for just $12.95. Vending machines would simply allow students to purchase these subsidized products any time they want.

UCLA seems to be on board with this idea. John Bollard, Ashe’s chief of operations, said the center’s leadership plans to speak with UC Davis campus leaders this summer to learn more about the effectiveness of their health product vending machine and whether such a machine would be appropriate at UCLA.

And there’s certainly room to improve upon UC Davis’ approach. UC Davis only provides one wellness machine in a room that’s not open around the clock – an implementation that seems counterintuitive to increasing accessibility to health products. UCLA can instead place multiple vending machines in open areas on campus, albeit after determining which products are in high demand and how often machines would need to be maintained.

Of course, these vending machines may seem unnecessary, since students could theoretically walk to one of the several 24-hour pharmacies in Westwood should they need after-hours access to health products. However, students living on or near campus need cost-effective access to health products, and while stores outside of campus operate late into the night, the health products they sell are often too expensive or sometimes too large in quantity for emergencies.

Students’ access to health products shouldn’t be limited by store availability. Installing health product vending machines would greatly improve students’ round-the-clock access to subsidized health and wellness products – a priority that should never be relegated to Plan B.

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