Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Taking the Right Action in the Right Way: A Comparison of Frameworks for Assessing the Health and Quality of Life of a Postsecondary Student Campus Community

Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Taking the Right Action in the Right Way: A Comparison of Frameworks for Assessing the Health and Quality of Life of a Postsecondary Student Campus Community

Article excerpt

The focus of campus health research, historically, has been on population health at the individual or aggregate level with little effort to examine the health of the students at a community level with a focus on the broader determinants of health and communitylevel intervention. The purpose of this article is to critique three models or frameworks of campus health, articulate the World Health Organization (WHO) vision of a healthpromoting university, and demonstrate the efficacy of adapting the Community Health Action model for use in university and college settings. Foundational within this proposed model is taking the right action using the right process, an inclusive participatory process. Adaptation of the model requires careful attention to student engagement in community, a healthy campus infrastructure and processes, and relationships beyond the campus. Effective student community assessment and improvement of student community health, ultimately, will serve to generate knowledge and build skills at various levels to benefit the health and quality of life of the students, their student community, the educational institution, and the broader community.

Keywords: postsecondary student health; campus community; community development; student quality of life

Researchers and postsecondary students in two rural prairie cities participated in a 3-year research project to examine the health, well-being, and quality of life of university and college students and their campus communities. As one aspect of the larger study, researchers adapted the Community Health Action (CHA) model (Racher & Annis, 2008) and developed community-level indicators of the health and quality of life of the student community, in consideration of the literature on campus health and the findings from the study.

Improvement in student health and quality of life is understood to increase academic success and positively influence the future well-being of students during these formative years. These benefits for students can be extended to the student community to enable its success in supporting the needs of future members. Changes in lifestyle choices will fit students for life and improvements in campus community resources will contribute to individual well-being and the ongoing quality of life of the student community.

The literature is replete with discussion of the health and quality of life of postsecondary students (Massey, 2005; Nelson, Lust, Story, & Ehlinger, 2009). Many issues such as physical health (Foxman et al., 2006), obesity (Strout, 2007), sexual and reproductive health (Downing-Matibag & Geisinger, 2009; Vahratian, Patel, Wolff, & Xu, 2008), substance abuse (Arbour-Nicitopoulous, Kwan, Lowe, Taman, & Faulkner, 2010), and tobacco use (Adlaf, Gliksman, Demers, & Newton-Taylor, 2003; Proctor-Scherdtel & Collins, 2013; Simmons & Brandon, 2007) as well as student safety (Danis, 2006; Porter & Williams, 2011) have been identified. Mental health of university and college students has become a primary concern (Eisenberg, Downs, Golberstein, & Zivin, 2009; Mahmoud, Staten, Hall, & Lennie, 2012; Patterson & Kline, 2008; Voelker, 2004, 2007).

Historically, the focus of campus health research has been on population health at the individual or aggregate level with little effort to examine the health of the student community at a community level. National projects to measure campus health have been undertaken across the United States (American College Health Association [ACHA], 2006; National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], 2004), with a focus of population health at the individual level rather than considering the broader determinants of student community health or campus community-level intervention as suggested by the World Health Organization (Tsouros, Dowding, Thompson, & Dooris, 1998b). Patterson and Kline (2008) identified the community as context and recognized the need to shift service provision "from a focus that is solely on an individual student's health to a focus on community health and well-being" (p. …

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