Photos by Laura Fox
Universities across the nation were just delivered their annual sexual health report card for the eighth year in a row – and once again, UVU has some room for improvement.
The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is a study conducted by Sperling’s BestPlaces that ranks universities based on the sexual health resources and information offered on campus. Researchers interviewed 140 university student health centers and ranked them based on their own criteria.
Although the study does not measure the sexual health of the students, it does provide a comparative analysis of the information being offered at student health centers across America. UVU ranked 130 out of 140 universities, moving ahead only one spot from the previous year.
“Our research showed that all participating schools have a good basic level of care offered by their student health centers,” Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s BestPlaces said. “However, the top universities do a better job of giving information to students and making that information available. For example, UVU does not provide Plan B, but other universities offer it for free to their students.”
The top three ranking universities were Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Arizona. These universities had unique sexual health programs such as “Sex Week at Yale,” a sex column in the college newspaper, and websites that offered facts about contraceptives and STIs.
Coming in last place is yet another Utah Valley institution: BYU. The Trojan Report Card clearly illustrates the disparity in sexual health information offered by different universities. Because there is no national standard for information that has to be offered by student health centers, the quality and quantity of information relies on the initiative from the faculty, students and administration.
“We have students and faculty who are sensitive to the sexual health resources that we currently offer. In the community there is controversy over the abstinence-only mentality that dominates our region, so we have to find the right balance to accommodate the information that students need,” said Sarah Graves, Wellness Program Coordinator.
Utah students in particular have differing spectrums of knowledge regarding sexual health due to legislation control on what can be taught in school systems. According to the Utah Department of Health, the age group of 15-24 comprises 70 percent of all Chlamydia infections in some areas.
“We are looking to expand the resources that we offer, we just need to assess what information our students need. In Spring 2014 we will be participating in the National College Health Survey, which should help us determine what new information needs to be available,” said Graves.
UVU Student Health Services currently offers on-site STD testing, free condoms upon request, and brochures and pamphlets regarding sexual health. They also hold a health fair once per semester in cooperation with Students For Choice, a club that advocates for sexual health awareness.
“What our research shows is that the schools near the top have made a decision to provide as much information as possible, and the ones at the bottom think it’s a matter of privacy. The purpose of this survey isn’t necessarily to rank colleges, it’s to get the information out there and see how it’s used,” Sperling said.
Sperling’s BestPlaces has made a competition for sexual health resources offered on campus in an effort to celebrate positive sexual health practices. Although Utah Valley colleges are finishing last in the rankings, UVU’s student health center will continue working to accommodate student privacy as well as increasing the availability of sexual health information.
Student Health Centers were graded on the following:
- Hours of operation
- Allow drop-ins or require appointments for student scheduling
- Quality of sexual health information and resources on website
- Contraceptive availability- free or at cost
- Condom availability- free or at cost
- STI testing on-site (On/off campus, cost)
- Lecture/outreach programs and student groups for sexual health education
- Sexual assault programs, resources or services
- Overall website usability and quality