Nov 022011
 
Authors: Jordan Kurtz

CSU made leaps and bounds on the national scene after the recent release of this year’s Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, going from No. 64 to No. 7.

The study, which ranks colleges for their accessibility of sexual health resources and information to students, was completed by an independent researcher who evaluated more than 140 college campuses nationwide.

“We are looking at the kind of information and kind of services provided,” said Bert Sperling, one of the researchers on the study. “We are not looking at rate of STDs or anything like that.”

This study has been rating the sexual health of schools for the past six years.

“Our goal is to provide you with a new level of accurate and up-to-date information, in a useful and entertaining format,” Sperling said of his 16 years of research and analysis for major publications.

Sperling has completed health research in cities across America for heart, asthma, allergy and various other topics. He is perhaps most noteworthy for his “Best Places” work, where he analyzed the best places to live, best places to make money, crime rate, cost of living and many other demographic studies.

The study takes a heavy look at where students are most likely to go for information: the health center website – a category that CSU made astronomical gains in from last year.

There are 13 categories that evaluate things such as days open, hours open, drop-ins versus appointment, contraceptive information, how resources are used, HIV/AIDS testing, costs, student peer groups and emergency services.

“Anytime you can be recognized like that, it’s supporting the norm of what we do here,” said Gwen Sieving, a health educator at the CSU Health Network.

New to this school year, all incoming CSU students were required to complete online alcohol and sexual assault education courses, which gave these students a “high bit of exposure to those topics,” Sieving said.

“Our programs emphasize the best way to help lower pregnancy and STI (sexually transmitted infection) rates,” Sieveing said.

The CSU Health Network also has a peer education team on campus called CREWS (Creating Respect Educating Wellness for and by Students), which hosts programs throughout the year including classroom sessions on sexual education topics.

“I feel sexual health is very important, especially in college,” said freshman apparel and merchandising major Kelsey Siegel. “I’m fortunate enough to be going to a university where students raise awareness about such an important matter.”

Other organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, have launched campaigns that include similar concepts with the goal of raising sexual safety awareness. Their “Get Yourself Tested” campaign partners with MTV and other organizations to get people talking about safe sex.

“Each year we see added enthusiasm,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Monica McCafferty said.

For students, Planned Parenthood offers discount STD testing and emergency contraception. McCafferty also said her organization uses social media and texting to spread their message.

“We want a positive and empowering experience,” she said.

Sperling said his research generally starts with a phone call to the student health center to have them answer a questionnaire about their programs.

“It’s really encouraging to see the responses that we’ve had throughout the years that we have done this,” Sperling said. “Health centers look forward to this to compare themselves to others.”
CSU went from a score of zero in 2010, to a nine in anonymous student services.

“The university also got extra credit because of a student media chat-show with sexual experts,” Sperling said.

Some of the other contributing factors to CSU’s top 10 ranking are that drop-ins are encouraged even more than before and that the website contains better information on sexual health, assault and services than before.

Schools that did not do as well at the beginning of the study are improving their efforts and catching up to pack. And, according to Sieving, the more aware students are, the more likely they will engage in safe practices, which all goes back to the promotion of a positive message.

“This is great information for school personnel to improve their students’ experience,” Sperling said.

University of Denver and University of Colorado-Boulder were the other Colorado schools that made their way up the charts, ranking No. 31 and No. 56 respectively.

Collegian writer Jordan Kurtz can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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