Nov. 9, 2006
Health Iowa Serves UI Students, Community In Health Promotion
Life as a college student comes with its own set of special health concerns. Sleep, diet, mental and physical wellbeing, and personal and sexual relationships are only a few of the issues students face, often on a daily basis.
The staff of Health Iowa, a unit based at Student Health Service (SHS) at the University of Iowa, works with students to promote healthy habits.
Health Iowa specializes in college student health. As a part of the fee UI students pay each year for health services, students have access to the services that Health Iowa provides. These include a certified fitness specialist on staff to provide fitness assessments, a registered dietitian to provide nutrition services, tobacco cessation programs, stress consultations and substance abuse help.
"Health Iowa has helped me develop a healthy diet, one where I do not feel like I am deprived of food or foods I enjoy," said UI student Tom Proctor. "This has resulted in a significant change in weight but also in my behaviors regarding food. They also taught me how to incorporate exercise into my everyday life."
Even students who have never made a clinic visit to Student Health Service are probably impacted by the services provided by Health Iowa, noted Sarah Hansen, associate director for education and coordinator of Health Iowa. "A good percentage of students have attended an event we have hosted, such as our annual Health Fair. Many students have come to a fitness assessment table at our outreach events, they've had a consultation with one of our specialists or visited the SHS/Health Iowa Web site," she said.
Health Iowa staff members conduct outreach programs in addition to one-on-one consultations with students, Hansen added. Outreach efforts include counseling athletic teams on nutrition; providing training on health issues for staff and faculty including residence hall coordinators and coaches who work directly with students; and hosting events such as health fairs and fitness assessments at the UI Field House.
"We are out on campus proactively, working with students to help them build healthy habits rather waiting for students to come to us at the Student Health Service," Hansen said. "We have a campus-wide education mission."
Last September, the UI ranked second in the country in sexual health accessibility and education, according to the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card - a report released by the makers of Trojan-brand condoms and Sperling's Best Places that graded and ranked the sexual health of colleges and universities across the country. Health Iowa offers sex education presentations, answers sex-related inquiries posted on its Web site and promotes safer sex and condom use around campus. The Student Health Service also provides sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment and referrals for sexual assault assistance.
Hansen said while the target population for Health Iowa's health promotion efforts is college students, they provide outreach to the greater Iowa City community, as well.
"The larger university mission involves engagement through service to the community," Hansen said. "We work to be on the cutting edge of best practice in health promotion, so we are able to provide support to other agencies and colleagues to put their health promotion efforts in motion."
Many UI students in public health, college student development and those who want to work in health promotion after graduation work with the staff at Health Iowa and gain real-world experience in the field. Allowing students to work in public health with the larger Iowa City community broadens their experience with different populations, Hansen said.
The Student Health Service Web site -- www.uiowa.edu/~shs/ -- is accredited by Health on the Net (HON). It was one of the first college health programs to receive HON accreditation.
The Web site contains articles on health topics that are of interest to college students. One of the most popular features of the site is a section where students can ask anonymous questions and the professionals at Health Iowa will provide answers to the questions posed.
"Our Web site has served as a benchmark for other institutions and certainly our colleagues at peer institutions mention that they would like to have Web sites that are as interactive as ours," Hansen said.
Health Iowa has several programs in progress for the upcoming year; one goal is to start a student-led health advocacy group on campus. Other plans include creating running clubs within UI residence halls and promoting physical activity, especially walking, Hansen said.
The Health Iowa staff believes that most aspects of college life can fit into a student's lifestyle, with moderation, Hansen noted.
"People need to be less critical of themselves. They need to look at the overall choices they make in a week and try to make the healthiest choices most of the time, understanding that health is a process and that process is never finished," Hansen said.
Tom Proctor agrees. "While I work daily on weight management, the staff at Health Iowa help me continue to develop lifelong habits that are healthier, such as learning that a healthy diet and exercise are not just part of weight loss but of a healthy lifestyle," he said.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178
MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, firstname.lastname@example.org. Writer: Andrea Schreiber