Private Colleges Healthier than Public Ones, Study Finds

Published: December 4, 2015


News Correspondent

Students at The University are often seen at the gym or school-sponsored wellness events.

A recent study on the effects of institutional characteristics on student health provides insight into this trend. The study suggests students at private colleges have better nutritional and physical health than students at public colleges. The study analyzed data from the National College Health Assessment, which consisted of a sample of 81,242 students and 118 colleges.

First year Alexcis Tapia said she believes the student community is very conscientious of wellness.

“Our campus is really good with the fitness aspect, because we have the wellness center … (and) the gym. There’s the program CHEW, and they host healthy events,” Tapia said.

Tapia said she sees a difference between the approach to wellness taken by The University and the New Jersey public school that she attended.

“There’s a huge difference (in regards to wellness.) I feel like they don’t push it as much at public schools, but I don’t know why private schools are more involved with campus,” Tapia said.

Director of the center for health education and wellness at The University Stephanie Adamec’s experience at various schools supports the recent study.

“I see that students (at The University) are very committed to physical wellness,” Adamec said. “An extremely high percentage of students compete (in intermural sports) … (and) the number of our students that go to the fitness center each months is in the thousands.”

Comparably, Adamec said in her previous positions at public universities, though there was a not great difference in regards to student commitment to wellness, there was a noticeable one. Adamec believes she has an explanation.

“I think that we work with a very privileged population … because we’re a private institution,” Adamec said.

Adamec said many University students had early access to education about the different aspects of wellness.

“I think that contributes to them being more readily apt to go and utilize some of the services,” Adamec said.

Also, Adamec said that The University has a core mission, reflective of its role as a private, religious institution that stresses student health. The university’s Jesuit value of cura personalis is related to the health and wellness of the whole person, Adamec said.

“It’s at the core of our institution so … we put a lot of resources and time and effort into talking to students,” Adamec said.

Adamec said that the purpose of CHEW, a University health organization, is solely to address this issue of student health. CHEW organizes programs that stress the importance of nutritional and physical health to the university community.

“We had Healthier U Day… to highlight not only what our campus but also what our local community has to offer in terms of health and wellness resources …. We had over 7000 people come to that event,” Adamec said.

Also, CHEW has a successful peer health program designed to address student wellness.

“We have peer health educators. It’s a leadership program for about twenty to twenty five students a year and … we train them to talk to other peers about health and wellness issues,” Adamec said.

Peer Health Educators are nationally certified and “are responsible for University of Scranton events including: Royal Taps, The Fitness Challenge, Mental Health Awareness Week, Campus Wellness Day, Alcohol Awareness Week, and many more,” according to the university’s CHEW website.

University senior Yasirie Ramos has been a peer health educator since her first year. She said she agrees that The University is devoted to student health.

“(Peer health educators) go into the resident halls, we do pop-up events on second floor DeNaples, (and) we make posters and put them up on campus … We just want to promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy decision-making,” said Ramos.

Ramos said that her experience at a Connecticut public high school was different. Scranton’s approach to wellness is more inclusive and directed toward the entire population.

“I do think (physical and nutritional health) was less of a focus at my high school …. my high school was very much sports-oriented, but if you didn’t play a sport, you didn’t get the healthy aspect of high school,” Ramos said.

Additionally, Ramos also said that there were fewer and less effective resources to utilize.

“The lunches weren’t the healthiest … (and) there was an academic counselor and school nurse … but between those two options you didn’t have any other outlets,” Ramos said.

The study recommends further research on the effects of institutional characteristics on student health, stressing the issue’s complexity and the importance of environment on health.

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