Interview with Stacy Andes, Director of Health Promotion
Fresh@News: Stacy, Can you tell us a little about the Office of Health Promotion?
Stacy Andes: The American College Health Association (2005) states that “student learning is at the core of the higher education academic mission.” Health Promotion serves this mission by empowering students to create healthy learning environments. Health is defined as both individual and community-based, encompassing six dimensions (social, physical, intellectual, cultural, emotional, and spiritual), and existing as a balance between the mind, body and spirit.
The Office of Health Promotion fulfills this mission by providing evidence-based health resources through the website and resource center; facilitating opportunities for students to build skills that allow them to make healthy lifestyle choices through campus-wide programs and the “healthy community” learning community for first year students; and encouraging students to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their own health and the health of the community by engaging students in internship and peer education experiences.
Fresh@News: What are some of the highlights of the fall semester?
SA: The most important highlight this fall is the new office name: Health Promotion. Many students, staff and faculty agree that the name is much easier to remember and it better reflects what we do every day – promote health! In addition, the following initiatives are new and exciting this fall:
1) HealthBytes delivers health to your inbox! Just like the Wildcat Newswire, you can subscribe to have each month’s issue emailed directly to you or you can access archived issues throughout the year by visiting www.villanova.edu/healthpromotion. Each month will feature healthy tips, resources, programs and highlights that will help you to maintain balance.
2) The Health Promotion Resource Center is now connected to Falvey’s library system! Writing a paper or doing a presentation on a hot topic in college student health? Concerned about a friend or family member’s health? Interested in a particular health topic yourself? Check out our various resources, including books, DVDs, videos, CDs, and other multimedia materials, by logging on or stopping by the Office of Health Promotion on the first floor of the Health Services Building!
3) The Office of Health Promotion staff has been hard at work updating the website to create a more user-friendly web environment and to provide up-to-date, accurate, interactive resources and information with regard to relationships, healthy body, self-care, substance safety, and sexual health. Make it your first stop for more information about health…go to www.villanova.edu/healthpromotion!
4) This year…we want our students to GO TO HEALTH! You will see our new slogan on all of our publicity, giveaways, event information, website and anything else produced by the staff, peer educators and interns of Health Promotion this year. Our goal for 2007-08 is to let students know who we are, where we are and the services and resources that we provide that are different and complementary to both the Counseling and Student Health Centers! We want Villanova students to go to health by visiting our website, stopping by the office, and/or giving us a call with questions and feedback.
Fresh@News: How do students use Health Promotion?
SA: We have an open door policy at Health Promotion, so that any student can feel free to walk in. They can take brochures about particular issues, or speak to a staff member about their different concerns. The website is always updated and available for the students to use for researching different health issues or informing themselves of our upcoming events. In fact students often visit the office when they are working on a paper and need more resources. Many students also attend the programs we offer, which are held both in the office and around campus. Most recently, Health Promotion has recruited student interns who are interested in gaining experience in event planning, website development, and film production. We encourage students to generate their own ideas about how they might get involved and reach out to us with their ideas. Some of our best programs and initiatives have come from our students!
Fresh@News: Can you explain the AlcoholEDU for College course?
SA: AlcoholEDU is an online educational program that has made an impact on the decisions of our students regarding alcohol. It is a 2.5-3 hour web-based alcohol prevention program being used at more than 350 colleges and universities around the country. The program uses the latest prevention techniques and science-based research to educate students about the impact of alcohol on the mind and body. Whether or not your son/daughter drinks alcohol, AlcoholEDU for College will empower your son/daughter to make well-informed decisions about alcohol and help him or her better cope with the drinking behavior of peers. The program is mandatory for all freshmen students.
Fresh@News: What is the purpose of requiring all freshmen to participate?
SA: Villanova takes alcohol education very seriously. We utilize a 4-tier approach to educating our first-year students. First, your son or daughter received education regarding alcohol first at orientation, where students participated in a simulated party followed by a comprehensive discussion of many issues relating to alcohol. Next, peer educators follow up in the residence halls with smaller programs that discuss the connections between alcohol use and sexual decision-making. Thirdly, AlcoholEDU for College is required for all freshmen students to ensure that our students are gaining a baseline of knowledge about alcohol and the way in which their decisions about alcohol use can impact their college experience. Lastly, the peer educators visit the residence halls throughout the year to distribute informational posters and to check in with freshmen about their Villanova experience and to answer any questions that they might have about health services and resources that are available to them.
Fresh@News: What are some main goals of educating freshmen about alcohol?
SA: Our main goal is to provide them with enough current information so that they can make healthy choices. The key here is safety. We want our students to be as safe as possible and to avoid the negative effects of either their own personal use or friends’ use of alcohol. Some negative consequences include relationship issues, academic struggles, family problems, financial difficulties or health disturbances.
Fresh@News: Do you think many freshmen are aware of the dangers of alcohol prior to completing the AlcoholEDU for College course?
SA: Often, freshmen have the mentality of feeling invincible, which is normal. However, these invincible feelings may lead them to make poor choices that they feel will not impact them. So, even though they are aware of the risks of alcohol they cannot hear it enough. Freshmen also tell us that even though they had alcohol education in high school, they have learned more information regarding alcohol after completing AlcoholEdu for College. The online format is more attractive to students and is an easily accessible way to further their knowledge on the dangers of alcohol.
Fresh@News: Do the students retain the information that they learned from the course?
SA: There is a pre-test and post-test within the course, as well as a 30-day follow up to assess how much of the material was remembered. At that 30-day mark, the students have shown that they still have a high rate of the knowledge previously attained. I dialogue a lot with upperclass students, and have discovered that they are much more in tune with the issues, especially health concerns, since the program has been implemented. The students understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and what excessive drinking could do to their health.
Fresh@News: What is Villanova’s approach toward underage drinking?
SA: We uphold the PA law. We do not promote any kind of underage drinking whatsoever. As with most universities, Villanova expects its’ students want to make good decisions around alcohol. We provide the students with the information on how to do so. The university’s primary goal is education. We are not punitive, although fines are attached to many of the violations so that students understand the seriousness of their behavior. As a university, we understand that students may experiment with alcohol, so it is our responsibility to take the necessary measures to inform them of the dangers so that this mistake can be prevented in the future.
Fresh@News: What would you advise parents to say when speaking to their son/daughter about college drinking?
SA: It is important to have an open dialogue with your son/daughter. During fall break, talk to them candidly about what they are seeing at college, how they are reacting to it and how it is making them feel. A lot of students don’t drink, but see it and are exposed to it. Parents should reinforce that there are a lot of resources on campus if their son/daughter feels like s/he is having issues with alcohol or is nervous being in social situations that might involve alcohol. Some resources on campus available for mentoring are the Residence Assistants, Counseling Center, Student Health Center, Health Promotion, Public Safety, the Assistant Dean for Alcohol and Drug Intervention, and their professors.
College student alcohol use is a national concern at college and university campuses. Despite the best health promotion efforts, we know that students are still prone to making ill-informed decisions that are detrimental to their college experience in many ways. An overwhelming majority of college students (88 %), including those under the legal drinking age, have used alcohol (Johnston, 2001). Recent data indicates that 65% of college students had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) equal to or greater than .08 the last time they “partied” or socialized (ACHA-NCHA, 2004). Furthermore, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s, (NIAAA) report, A Call to Action: Change the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges indicates that 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes and that 500,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2002).
Additionally, many college students are making poor choices under the influence of alcohol that impact their sexual health. More than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are survivors of alcohol-related sexual assault and rape and over 400,000 students had unprotected sex (Hingson et al, 2002). Villanova students are not immune to these same issues and concerns, and it is critical that they are utilizing information, services and resources that will allow them to make more informed, healthy decisions about their health.
Fresh@News: What resources are available to parents?
SA: Our website, www.villanova.edu/healthpromotion is a great resource available to the parents. They certainly can speak to any staff member in the office if they are concerned about an issue their son/daughter is facing. If we cannot handle the problem ourselves, we have a referral network and can direct parents to the appropriate area. Also, parents can take the AlcoholEDU for College program themselves (see instructions below). We encourage this because it will give parents an understanding of what their son or daughter is experiencing. They could also have a conversation with their child about the material presented in the program. With their active participation, parents can reinforce the information.