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Survey assesses students’ health concerns

By Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

November 4, 2016

A health survey will analyze students’ wellness and the availability of resources on campus, according to an email from the executive director of health and wellness, Michael LaFarr, on Nov 1.

The National College Health Assessment (NCHA) was developed by the American College Health Association (ACHA). It asks questions about mental, physical and sexual health, as well as drug use. The goal of the survey is to see how Brandeis’ health trends compare to other universities nationally. “These comparisons are very important in helping us decide how to invest money and staffing to address the health and wellness needs of our community,” wrote LaFarr in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

Brandeis selected the ACHA-NCHA survey because it has the capacity to collect a large amount of data at once. “More than 1.4 million students at more than 740 colleges and universities across the country have already taken the survey,” LaFarr wrote.

The survey asks about temporary health problems such as a cold or cough as well as chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Questions either ask students to answer in terms of their experience in the last 30 days or in the last 12 months. “My understanding of the questions which compare the past 30 days to the past year is looking to see if there has been a change in behavior in the short term versus a longer term,” LaFarr said.

Many of the questions focus on how widespread the health concern is, asking the survey-taker to determine how often the average Brandeis student participates in an activity such as drug or alcohol use. The survey does not define what an “average Brandeis student” is.

A survey-taker is not required to input their name, but age, ethnicity, height and weight are requested.

Participation is voluntary, and students are able to skip questions, particularly if they are concerned that certain questions may compromise anonymity. The results of the survey will be released to the student body. They will be published in a group format, and individual responses will not be posted.

Students do not need to worry about having their results identified through their email address. “To ensure confidentiality, email addresses are destroyed by ACHA before data are compiled and shared with Brandeis University,” said LaFarr in an email sent to the Brandeis community.

Brandeis administrators were allowed to add questions, but not allowed to remove existing ones. Removing questions would cause problems for ACHA when comparing Brandeis’ results with other universities, according to LaFarr.

A survey-taker is asked to consider how their health affects daily activities, such as: “In the past 7 days, how much of a problem have you had with sleepiness (feeling sleepy, struggling to stay awake) during your daytime activities?”

Questions require students to assess a health concern in terms of frequency. “Over the last two weeks, how many times have you had five or more drinks of alcohol at a sitting?” the survey reads.

The final question requires a yes or no response and reads, “I would like Brandeis to become a smoke-free campus and ban smoking on Brandeis property.” Smoking is prohibited within Brandeis buildings and within 30 feet of a building. A single student may be fined up to $150 for violating this section of Rights and Responsibilities.

Upon completion of the survey, students are entered in a random drawing for gift cards and a MacBook Air.

The survey, provided by the American College Health Association (ACHA), will be available until Nov. 30.

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