Lengthy health survey draws mixed reactions from students


survey front

The University of San Diego’s Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, CHWP, is giving five students the chance to win $100 by completing the biennial National College Health Assessment. Released last week, the 70-plus question survey asks students to disclose information on numerous health-related issues, including drug and alcohol use, stress and academic performance and sexual behavior.

Created by the American College Health Association, the anonymous health assessment assists colleges and universities in collecting precise information about students’ health habits, behaviors and perceptions. According to an email from Carmen Vazquez, vice president for student affairs, the results of this survey will be used to create new health promotion programs on campus.

However, many students are still carefully weighing the benefits of participating in the survey.
Though some students simply take the survey for the possibility of a prize, others are finding the results to be surprisingly informative.

Sophomore Katelyn Johnson found that the survey encouraged her to think more deeply about certain health habits.
“The questions certainly made me think,” Johnson said. “As a freshman, we didn’t talk about eating disorders, a lot of issues that many people have. It made me want to know about the actual statistics, to learn more information.”

While some students were encouraged to think deeper about their personal health, others, like sophomore Sarah Bilello, was disheartened by the survey’s length.

“It seemed a little tedious and repetitive, as surveys kind of are,” Bilello said.

Biello was especially frustrated by questions about substance use, which she said can make the survey tiresome if students do not drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.

Despite some frustrations, Bilello thinks that, overall, the survey questions were illuminating.

“The questions were very relevant,” Bilello said. “It helped me because I realized how little I exercise, how little I knew about what the typical student here does. It would also be very cool if USD shared anonymous information and statistics. I think it’s important for the rest of the school to know about the rest of the student body.”

Based on the survey results, Bilello thinks USD may consider having more support groups to address any current gaps in care.

Freshman Demi Flores said that she plans on taking the health survey soon, but still has her reservations.

“The only concern I have is with the length of it,” Flores said. “I hear it’s a bit extensive, and that’s really the only thing keeping me from doing it right away. With the midterms and projects I have going on this and next week, it’s hard to find the time.”

Even as student buzz about the survey spread across campus, the CHWP and its staff were continued efforts to get students involved. Calling this year’s theme “Highlight Your Health,” last week the CHWP gave away free highlighters, placed signs around campus and put stickers on coffee sleeves.

Stephanie Lynch, assistant director of the CHWP, said that despite the time the survey takes to complete, filling it out is well worth the effort.

“The survey really drives all of the health and wellness data for the USD community,” Lynch said. “It is important that students take the short time, only 20 minutes, to complete it.”

The health questionnaire is an important way to let the CHWP know what the big health concerns are for students.

Lynch hopes students will understand why they are being asked to take the survey.

“This survey drives our programs here,” Lynch said. “This is the place where students voice health concerns. It’s not just about alcohol consumption or smoking habits. It tells us what our big concerns for students are; that is namely, stress, balancing multiple demands, sleep and alcohol and other drug use.”

The CHWP finds that the survey is a good reference to see how students are doing individually and as compared to national data. Over 500 colleges and universities use this same survey for the same reason.

Emily Davis, graduate assistant for the CHWP, believes comparing survey results with other schools shines a light on the specific needs of USD.

“It is also really important for us to be able to compare our results with the national average,” Davis said. “This gives us a better understanding of our students, and, more importantly, it helps us address our unique health concerns.”

Though the survey protects the individual identity of students, Davis noted that the information and results are available to the public as anonymous mass data received from national averages.

“Anyone can go and look up the information,” Davis said. “The numbers vary from year to year, too, of how many students participate, but we’re hoping to reach as many students as possible.”

Sophomore Taylor Young, a receptionist for the CHWP, says that her firsthand knowledge of the survey is what motivated her to learn more about her own well-being.

“Since I work here, I see the reasons why the survey is put on,” Young said. “It’s not just for the student body but for our wellness as a community. It’s hard for students to understand, it’s just an annoying survey, but it needs to emphasized that it’s important. Its ultimate goal is to put USD in a better place.”

Sophomore and student athlete Meritxell Fernandez believes the survey has its benefits, but it is simply too lengthy for busy students.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to be so long, about 70 questions or so, I heard,” Fernandez said. “People are really busy and don’t have time for that.”

Through the survey, USD hopes to increase the awareness of health and wellness services available to students by gathering anonymous, self-reported information. The survey was released last week and will continue to be open for student submissions until Thanksgiving. Students hoping to learn about their health habits or to gain a chance to win $100 will have to find time to complete the 70 questions.