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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Sharon Fisher
American College Health Association
410-859-1500
sfisher@acha.org
http://www.acha.org

 

Two More Data Sets Enhance Survey's
Overview of the Health Status of College Students

Comprehensive National College Health Assessment Provides
Rich Picture of Health Behaviors and Risks for College Population

Baltimore, MD -- November 3, 2003 -- Two more recently released data sets add to the vast spectrum of research on college student health provided by the American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment (NCHA). More than 100,000 students at 179 colleges and universities have participated in the surveys.

The NCHA is a research effort organized by the nonprofit American College Health Association (ACHA) to assist health service providers, faculty, researchers, and student affairs professionals in collecting data about the health of college students. With the inclusion of new results from the Fall 2002 and Spring 2003 surveys, data from the NCHA now span seven collection periods, from Spring 2000 through Spring 2003.

Students answer questions about their habits, behaviors, and perceptions on the most prevalent health topics of the day: alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; mental and physical health; weight, nutrition, and exercise; personal safety and violence; sexual health; and impediments to academic performance. While other health surveys of college students cover a single topic area, such as alcohol and drug use, the NCHA addresses the broadest range of health issues in the college-age population. It is the largest known comprehensive data set on the health of college students.

The scores of colleges and universities that have already participated in the NCHA have praised the numerous ways the data can be applied. The schools are using acquired data to better understand the health trends of their students, identify any emerging problems, determine the health areas of highest priority, report on campus behavioral norms, identify risks to safety and academic performance, allocate monetary and staffing resources, design new programs, and evaluate current strategies.

The Michigan State University Olin Health Center reports, "We are using the NCHA data in just about everything for our planning and operations. In addition, our university hierarchy, student groups, and newspapers are using the data in their articles, editorials, and even in policy discussions. We have just begun to tap into its capabilities."

The health promotion staff at University of Hawaii at Manoa Health Services says, "The data acquired from our participation in the NCHA helped us to determine the health areas of highest priority for our overall clinical and educational programming. We will use the results to benchmark the numbers of students served and their perceptions of the health information we provide. Also, we will cite the data as evidence that achieving and maintaining good health for the campus community contributes to university objectives of student retention and success."

Sample Results from the Surveys
The results to the question, "Within the school year, have any of the following affected your academic performance?" demonstrate remarkable consistency over seven survey periods. Since the survey was first implemented in Spring 2000, students have continuously rated stress as the number one impediment to their academic life. The results for the Spring 2003 survey are pictured.



One of the unique aspects of the NCHA is its ability to map a broad range of health behaviors and variables over an extended period of time. For instance, the number of students that reported "having ever been diagnosed with depression" has increased by 3.1 percentage points over the last seven survey periods. In Spring 2000, 10.3% of students reported that they had been diagnosed with depression; in Spring 2003, 13.4% of students reported that they had been diagnosed with depression.

The NCHA offers distinctive content areas, such as sexual assault and dating violence. The results for the question, "Within the last school year, have you been in a relationship that was emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive?" for Spring 2003 are pictured.



The survey also includes variables that calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) and estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The BMI results from the Spring 2003 survey indicated that 30% of students were overweight, according to the Healthy People 2010 criteria. The BAC result indicated that males and females had nearly identical blood alcohol concentration the last time they drank.

How Institutions Can Participate
Participating schools have the option of using paper-based or web-based surveys. With the new web-based surveys, introduced in January of this year, students are invited to participate via an e-mail message and then complete and submit the survey online.

There are two versions of the survey available. The fall survey asks students certain questions based on the time frame of "in the last 12 months, . . ."; the spring survey asks students certain questions based on the time frame of "in the last school year, …"

To date, the NCHA has been used by schools that represent the many geographical regions of the United States, all Carnegie Classifications, and various campus sizes and settings, ranging from institutions in large metropolitan areas to those in rural small towns.

Underwritten by a national, nonprofit organization with more than 80 years of history and commitment to the college health field, the NCHA underscores the American College Health Association's vision to be the recognized voice of expertise in college health. Ongoing efforts such as these help us advocate for the health of college students by integrating the critical role of college health into the mission of higher education. For additional information about the NCHA, contact Research Director E. Victor Leino, PhD, at (410) 859-1500, or visit the American College Health Association's website at www.acha.org.

 

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Citation: American College Health Association. National College Health Assessment: Spring 2003. Baltimore: American College Health Association; 2003.

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