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Student health survey will bring better health and wellness services

By Moira Finn | March 14, 2013

Memorial students have the opportunity to improve future university health, wellness and counselling services, thanks to a new comprehensive international health survey.

The National College Health Assessment (NCHA) Survey will capture student behaviours and attitudes on a broad range of health issues, ranging from nutrition and exercise, drugs and alcohol, personal safety, sexual health, stress, depression and anxiety.

Memorial is among 33 universities in Canada and more than 100 universities in the United States participating in this year’s survey. In addition to providing an objective picture of student health and identifying emerging trends on Memorial’s campuses, this international research effort will provide context for the results and the health experiences of Memorial students and can be considered alongside those of post-secondary students elsewhere. 

“Health impacts most aspects of university life, including academic success,” said Dr. Norman Lee, chief physician with the health centre division of Memorial’s Student Affairs and Services. “By participating in the survey, students are telling us what our priorities should be.”

A random sample of 5,000 Memorial students will be selected -- notified via an email to their Memorial email accounts -- to complete the online survey on Tuesday, March 19. The survey is confidential and student identities cannot be linked with survey answers, a fact Dr. Lee hopes will motivate students invited to participate to make every effort to complete the survey.

“The better the response rate, the more statistically significant the sample will be and the more powerful a planning tool we have for health promotion and prevention services,” said Dr. Lee.

This is the second time that Memorial has participated in the NCHA survey, conducted annually since 2000. When the 2008 survey results confirmed an increase demand for medical and counselling services, the university allocated resources to meet this need, says Kelly Neville, wellness co-ordinator with the Counselling Centre, who along with Dr. Lee and staff nurse Missy Power, co-ordinated Memorial’s participation in the NCHA surveys in 2008 and 2013.

“Today there is a psychiatrist on staff and we implemented e-CheckUpToGo, an online alcohol assessment tool, to help students understand their drinking habits,” Ms. Neville explained. “Both these initiatives were promoted by the findings of the NCHA 2008 survey.”

Up-to-date empirical data on student health and emerging needs will also mean campus counselling and health centres can apply for funding from government and other agencies to support new wellness programs and initiatives.

Survey results are expected to be available by July and the health and counselling centres will present the findings to student groups, university administrators and other stakeholders. In addition to the immediate benefits of the NCHA survey, students, scholars and researchers at Memorial will also have access to the dataset to conduct novel research and analyses.

Dr. Lee says he expects the 2013 survey will reveal that there have been positive gains in health education and awareness and that the behaviours and attitudes of Memorial students around health issues are in line with those of students on campuses across North America.

“Getting an accurate picture is a matter of getting students to complete the survey,” he said. “I honestly feel that health and health services are priorities for our students, and I’m optimistic that we will see a very good response.”

For more information about the National College Health Assessment, please visit www.achancha.org.


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