Boynton Health Service released the results of its first-ever comprehensive health survey of 14 Minnesota colleges and universities Thursday.
Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, said the findings of the survey, which looked at seven areas of student health issues, can be used to address policy issues at the University and state levels.
The University previously administered a comprehensive health survey every three years, but this is the first time it includes data from 13 other two- and four-year schools, he said.
“The health of college students is not limited to one campus at a time,” Ehlinger said. “Having information from two-year schools, four-year schools allow us to talk to the policy makers, to say college students throughout the state need to be a priority.”
The areas of the survey included health insurance and health-care usage; mental health; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; personal safety and financial health; nutrition and physical activity and sexual health.
Only half of students said they would be very likely to call 911 for emergency assistance in the event of a friend passing out, according to the report.
University Police Lt. Troy Buhta said he thinks the University has done a good job with alcohol awareness education, despite the statistic.
“It’s scary,” he said, “where someone could lose their life and people are failing to call (911) on that.”
Students shouldn’t be concerned about the consequences for themselves when their friends could be in danger, Buhta said.
“The reason you go out with friends is – a part of it is to stay protected and protect your friends,” he said.
Underreported sexual assaults
Nearly one in four female students indicated they had been sexually assaulted – which includes unwanted sexual advances and rape – in their lifetime (15.8 percent of students overall), but only a third of those students said they had reported their assault.
Aurora Center Violence Prevention Education Coordinator Jill Lipski said the data accurately reflect nationwide trends in sexual assaults and rapes.
“Rape is the least reported crime in this country,” she said. “We have to ask ourselves what is going on in our culture that is making it so that victims of rape feel they can’t come forward.”
People need to be supportive of their friends if they report an experience of sexual assault, Lipski said. “They need to tell their friends, ‘I believe you, it’s not your fault, I support you.’ “
The Aurora Center works with student groups and departments to raise awareness and create policies for disclosure of sexual assaults, she said.
“It’s about commitment to education and commitment to creating that culture and climate of ‘we will support you and we will believe you,’ ” Lipski said.
Condoms, condoms, condoms
More than half of the students reported condom usage during their last sexual encounter, for vaginal intercourse, according to the report. The numbers for oral sex and anal intercourse drop to 7.5 percent and 28.1 percent respectively.
Dave Dorman, a health educator at Boynton, said the numbers for vaginal intercourse are “a pretty good rate.”
The Healthy Campus 2010 campaign, set forth by the American College Health Association, aims for 70 percent condom usage for vaginal intercourse by 2010, he said.
The Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education group on campus has been trying to address the low usage of condoms during oral sex by distributing “oral sex kits,” with dental dams and information sheets, Dorman said.
The group and Boynton are aware of low condom usage during anal intercourse, he said.
“It’s kind of an unexplored area,” he said. “It’s high-risk activity for disease transmission. We just need to do more exploration to find out.”