Students are asked to assess health in survey

Castleton State College would like to perform a study about the health and well-being of its students. However, survey organizers need students’ help.A new health education program is in the works for the 2011-2012 school year. Wellness Center officials will be conducting an assessment on students to determine things like how often they drink alcohol, how well they are sleeping and how stressed they are at school.

“We want to see where we stand and we want to see what needs are necessary,” said Wellness Center Director Martha Coulter as she glanced at the pile of potting soil she spilled on the floor earlier. “We want to plan effective programs based on what is found.”

Since 2000, more than 400 college campuses around the United States have incorporated new health education programs, Coulter said. To make this happen, they have collaborated with the American College Health Association and used its four steps including assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation to create more effective programs. Castleton is one of the newest additions to the list of colleges trying out this program.

The college started applying these steps in early November of last year. The directors of the Wellness Center facilitated public forums with individual groups of faculty, staff and students to determine the needs of students for health promotion and wellness education, Coulter said. These public forums concluded with an eight-page executive summary on health education consultation.

“The Ecological Model for Health Promotion is the standard model of practice for wellness education on college campuses and in public health agencies nationwide,” said Health Educator Catherine Collins on the first page of the summary. “Behavior change regarding a specific health issue, like alcohol use and abuse, cannot happen by focusing on the targeted individual or group alone.”

To really get an idea where the school stands on health education, officials decided to perform the National College Health Assessment on students around campus. This assessment will make it possible to plan more effective programs for students on campus, Coulter said. The assessment will ask a series of questions including ‘how would you describe your general health? How safe do you feel on campus and how stressed are you?’ Coulter said.

With the public forums having concluded, it’s now time for the survey, Coulter said.

“So this is our next step,” Coulter said. “We’re doing our evaluation and measurements, and we should have the results in time to begin planning this summer.”

The assessment will be available to students the first three weeks after spring break of this year and it is already bringing in positive reactions from the students.

“I think it’s good that they are trying to figure out what the issues are and go from there,” student Amber Blogett said. “It helps instead of blindly going into the issue.”

Student Julie Carryer agreed.

“I think depending on what the assessment entails, this sounds like a very smart idea,” she said. “If the college knew more about each of the students’ current health situations, this would allow the college to make better decisions based on student’s health, such as allergies, illnesses, etc.”

Others said they like the possibilities for students that the assessment might provide.

“Yes I would take the assessment, because I think that everyone has different needs, and different issues,” commuter Elishia Fletcher said excitedly. “Just to focus on a few doesn’t apply to everybody on campus.”

To help undertake the effort, more staff is also being hired.

“We are right in the process of hiring health educators who will work out of this office, and I’m really excited about that,” Coulter said smiling. “We already have a bunch of really good applicants.

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