Health Survey to Identify New Wellness Initiatives

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On October 22, students received an e-mail including a link to the National College Health Assessment survey, a national and completely confidential survey that Worth hopes will provide the information it needs to design effective health and wellness programs.

Beth Kotarski, Director of the Worth Health Center, said that “this is the first time Swarthmore’s ever done [the survey]… the main goal that we had in doing it was to begin to look at wellness programming on campus… we know there’s behavioral stuff we can address—eating, exercise, tobacco, stress, all the typical college symptoms, but we don’t want to assume that there’s a particular problem without actually having the data to back that up.” The data from the survey “will help us to decide what’s really necessary.”

Reid Wilkening ’10, a member of the Student Health Advisory Council, described it as a “pretty comprehensive survey,” touching on issues of mental health, drug and alcohol use, general wellness, and sexual health. The survey focuses on the personal health of students, and does not ask questions specifically about Worth.

Wilkening encouraged students to take it. “It’s not actually 20-30 minutes like they claim it is… it should take you ten at most.” He added, “there’s a big push this year to encourage wellness, and this survey will help Worth tailor its programs to student needs.”

As of Thursday, October 30th, less than 200 students had responded to the survey. “We’d like to get at least 500,” said Kotarski. “We’ll be sending out another survey invitation on Sunday… it’s not just about current students’ wellness, but it’s going to affect students that come after them… the program will be phased in over the next several months.”

The National College Health Association will also use Swarthmore’s survey results in compiling their national statistics. Kotarski explained that “the information that they compile nationally from colleges and universities helps to form their healthy campus initiatives.”

The survey is also co-sponsored by the Student Health Advisory Council, and we asked about how that body, formed last year, has been working so far. Student Health Advisory Committee’s primary function “is as a liasion between Worth and students,” said Kotarski. “They’re informed about Worth’s policies and procedures.”

Wilkening explained that “a lot of the student criticism of Worth is due to misunderstandings,” and he sees his job as communicating between the two, helping students to realize why Worth does things the way it does and telling Worth when its policies just aren’t making sense.

Kotarski noted that “the Student Health and Wellness fair was also really successful last year, and we did get some good feedback that helped us make some changes.”

One important change was in the way that students sign in; students used to sign in on the same notebook, meaning that you could read the names of students who had visited Worth before you that day. In response to privacy concerns raised by the student committee, this procedure was recently changed; now students sign in on individual routing slips seen only by the nurses and themselves.

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