SDSU will conduct new health assessment survey this spring


Cristian Rangel

El Centro de Salud Calpulli esta disponible para la comunidad de SDSU.

by Jamie Ballard, News Editor

The Health Promotions Department at San Diego State is striving to develop a better understanding of student health by implementing the National College Health Assessment survey this spring.

The survey, which was developed by the American College Health Association, asks about various aspects of student health. Topics including illness, injury, mental health and availability of health resources on campus are all addressed in various questions.

Sample questions from the NCHA website include, “Within the last 12 months, how often did you wear a seatbelt when riding in a car?” and “Over the last two weeks, how many times have you had five or more drinks of alcohol at a sitting?”

James Lange, the director of Health Promotions at SDSU, said that in addition to the standard NCHA survey questions, there will also be questions developed by the California State University Chancellor’s Office, as well as some SDSU-specific questions.

The CSU Chancellor’s Office has mandated that this survey be implemented on all 23 CSU campuses. Approximately 7,000 students at SDSU will be randomly selected to take the voluntary survey, which is open for two weeks. Students who take the survey are entered to win gift cards from the SDSU Bookstore. Once the survey closes, the info goes back to the ACHA, which then processes the data and sends it back to the university.

The CSU system is paying approximately $3,010 for SDSU to administer the test. They are also paying $500 worth of incentives in the form of bookstore gift cards.

Lange said the survey will most likely be offered to SDSU students in March, meaning that the results should likely be in before the end of the spring semester.

Given that some of the survey questions address student behaviors related to sex, alcohol consumption and drug use, privacy is a large concern.

“Students who are asked to participate are not identified, and the data that comes back to us will not include any of their information,” Lange said. 

“We’ve done similar surveys in the past, and these sort of surveys have been done on campuses across the nation, and we do find that people are often pretty forthcoming.”

Freshman computer engineering major Eric Le likes the idea of the health survey, but he fears students won’t actually participate.

“If you were to send out a survey with more than 60 questions, some people might do it to help promote the school and promote a healthier lifestyle for college kids,” Le said. “But I think a lot of people wouldn’t care to look at it. … Sadly, no, I probably wouldn’t take it if it were sent to me, I just have a busy schedule.”

Lange explained that the survey is important in deciding where the health services organizations — such as Health Promotion, Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Aztec Recreation Center — should allocate time and resources.

“We have all this, what we need to know is, are we fine-tuned to our students’ needs?” he said.

“And are we meeting those needs? Are we having an impact on the health of our students? Those questions are pretty important from a strategic perspective, because we can make changes to better meet the needs, but only if we know what those needs are.”

Lange said SDSU has collected previous student health data, but it was difficult to make changes. For many years, the surveys offered to students only addressed issues related to alcohol and drugs. In 2012, the survey was expanded to include more general health issues. However, it was also the last year the survey was offered.

“A lot of times these types of things aren’t useful unless you can do it over time, or if you can look at it in comparison to national norms,” Lange said.

“NCHA is being done on many campuses, so we’ll be able to see if our campus is higher or lower on certain issues. That can help us understand if we need to target something a little more forcefully.”