Academic journal article College Student Journal

University Students' Wellness-What Difference Can a Course Make?

Academic journal article College Student Journal

University Students' Wellness-What Difference Can a Course Make?

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to describe the influence of a health education course on first year university students. Initially designed to serve the pedagogical needs of physical education, recreation and kinesiology students, the course attracts a diversity of students across disciplines. We assessed the influence of the course as interpreted through one-minute papers gathered on the final day of class, and through personal interviews conducted with former students. The results suggest that the course influenced students' quality of life in three broad areas--physical, spiritual and psychological 'Being,' physical, social and community 'Belonging,' and most notably practical, growth and leisure 'Becoming.' Students were initially drawn the course to learn information about health and wellness, completed the course inspired by the potential for their own and others' wellness, and were bonded by the class structure, format and assignments.

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Despite a well accepted view that university students are generally 'healthy' (Meier, Stock, & Kramer, 2006), studies have revealed the prevalence of unhealthy behaviors among North American students (Adlaf, Demers, & Gliksman, 2005; Bray & Born, 2004; Graham & Jones, 2002; Patterson & Kline, 2008). Researchers who have studied health promotion on campuses have recommended that health education "be incorporated into the curriculum if the initiative is to have a significant impact" (Tsouros, Dowding, Thompson, & Dooris, 1998 pg. 48).

At one western Canadian university, Personal Health, Wellness, and Potential (PHW 100), is offered as a 'survey' starter course. Originally designed to groom future professionals to prescribe and facilitate health and wellness for clients, the syllabus has been evolving from its original purpose to integrate health promotion and personal wellness theory, practice, and research in an updated curriculum. The evolution of the course has occurred because of its appeal to a broader base of students, and the instructor's beliefs that helping students understand how self-care and self-responsibility can assist them in their lifestyle choices is critical as they move from taking care of themselves to taking care of others and the world around them (Simpson & Freeman, 2004). PHW 100 is a 13 week, classroom-based course (39 class hours) that utilizes a number of instructional strategies and student evaluation processes. More than simply transmitting information about healthy living (e.g., physical activity, nutrition, substance use, environmental practices) through lectures, the course engages students as a group in addressing their own or others' broadly defined health issues through an experiential lifestyle change and community 'legacy' project. As well, numerous guest speakers are brought into to share their experiences with specific health issues (e.g., eating disorders, physical disabilities) or personal challenges that serve to 'bring to life' topics included in the textbook.

Enabling students to take control of their health and shape it in a positive direction can enhance both their academic and personal lives (Patterson & Kline, 2008). Experiences of institutions who have studied the delivery of a health curriculum suggest that it is a promising practice. Although there is limited and dated scientific evidence to advocate the enhancement of students' health and wellness through an introductory course, what is available supports an argument for universal access across campus. A handful of pre-post studies have been conducted to determine the immediate effects of such a course. The findings generally suggest that a health and physical education course improves the attitudes, knowledge and behaviors of students completing the course compared to students not enrolled (Edwards, 1982; Valois, 1987). As Keeling (2002) has argued, colleges and university campuses provide an ideal setting for health education. …

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