How just-in-time health care support for women can help student success

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As a mother of two teenagers, conversations about health and wellness are the norm in my household. Admittedly, my “conversations” tend to take the form of nagging more than wellness “advice” — wearing deodorant, showering daily, and (gasp!) brushing your teeth.

However, there were times – usually in the car when no one was looking directly at the other – when they asked me about women’s sexual health and reproductive issues and expected a straight and honest answer. direct. I’m encouraged for my teenagers to ask these questions, but not just because they’re boys.

Even as a teenager and college-aged young woman, I too had questions about my own health and well-being and never really found a reliable source for answers. There was no Internet equivalent of WebMD – instead there was a group of friends in the girls’ locker room. There were books likeAre you there God? it’s me margaritawhich has become the go-to resource for classmates curious about their menstrual cycle. And, in middle school, we all got used to having to make an appointment at the health center – usually a week or two after the onset of symptoms. There was certainly no just-in-time support or advice when a health issue (or crisis) arose in the wee hours of the morning.

So I became curious to know exactly how women on college campuses today are getting help for their own health and well-being, likely without the help of the late author Judy Blume. In a post-Dobbs decision era, we are seeing more women come to my state of Colorado seeking help with reproductive health. There’s no question that the women (and the men who support them!) on our campuses and in our communities across the country are looking for just-in-time advice, guidance and direction 24/7, accessible, comprehensive and well-promoted regarding their reproductive health. health.

What exactly does “just in time” healthcare support look like in practice for students? I spoke with Camden Robertson, a 19-year-old who attends Pace University in New York. She is a sexual assault peer advocate, a Caraway campus counselor, and a communications consultant for health advocacy organizations and political campaigns. She shared her story and perspective with me in hopes that more post-secondary education leaders and decision-makers will see the benefit of having a comprehensive, just-in-time healthcare resource. for the women (and again, the men who support them!) on their campuses.

Alison Griffin: What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a student today?

camden robertson: As a woman in college, I really struggled to balance all the things I’m passionate about with my health and well-being. I’m a senior at Pace University, double majoring, and graduating a year early. Right now I’m working three part-time jobs, doing a scholarship, and taking six courses. And every day, like women across the country, I am inundated with news about new legislation banning abortion and making reproductive health care more inaccessible. It’s hard not to get discouraged. The truth is, my health doesn’t even come second on the to-do list, it’s 262nd.

Alisson: How does your health impact your schoolwork and your ability to stay focused on your studies and academic pursuits?

Camden: When I was a freshman in college, I had a lower back injury that made it painful to sit in class, made it hard to concentrate, kept me awake at night, and really kept me from to do my best. I was forced to pay out of pocket for expensive chiropractic care just to get through the week. I’m someone who really cares about my grades and my career, and it was frustrating to be held back by something out of my control. All this to say that the health of our body and mind is paramount. Good health is what allows us to be curious about what’s going on in our world, it allows us to act on our passions and focus on what makes us happy to be alive. No one can be expected to put themselves fully into anything unless their body and mind are healthy first.

Alisson: What does wellness mean to you?

Camden: For me, wellness is like being able to get out of bed each morning grateful for the day, without that pit of dread in your stomach. And it looks really different for everyone! For many women, access to care makes the difference. If you’re struggling to cope with stress, a chronic illness, or an unplanned pregnancy, you probably need extra support to wake up in the morning feeling great, and you deserve access to that. support.

Alisson: How has your campus supported your well-being – and your well-being – as a student and as a person?

Camden: I have a unique perspective on this due to my position with Pace’s Office of Sexual and Interpersonal Wellness as a Sexual Assault Peer Advocate. A big part of my job is to understand our on-campus wellness network and students’ experiences with that network. Unfortunately, many students have struggled to get the care they need on campus. It’s frustrating, but I have a lot of hope. Very few colleges have a network of peer advocates like Pace, and the reason our office exists is because Pace students asked for it. If you listen carefully enough, you will find that students tell leaders exactly what they need. Last year, our President spoke of a growing mental health crisis on college campuses, and I hope he follows through on his promise to create better and more inclusive mental health support systems. As long as our institutional leaders remain attentive to the needs of students, we will make progress.

Alison: Did you use any other tools or resources to support your on-campus wellness and well-being? What kinds of tools and resources did you use and how did they contribute to a “healthy mind” and “healthy body” experience?

Camden: I learned that, in many ways, I am my best resource. I make it a part of every day to move my body, spend time outdoors, and eat well, because I know these things will do me good. I also found that I felt better when I gave back, whether by donating to local abortion funds or volunteering. When I need extra support, I always look for convenience first. I’m drawn to 24/7 apps to order my prescriptions, talk to providers, and get referrals for in-person care when I need it.

Alison: What are some of the biggest challenges students face when trying to take care of themselves, their health, and their well-being? And what resources ensure continuity of care?

Camden: One of the biggest barriers for students trying to access care is cost. Considering the rising price of a college education in America, it is remarkable that colleges can charge thousands of dollars per semester for health care. I know I can speak for my peers when I say that if health care were cheaper, we would have healthier bodies and minds. Another challenge is that students leave their primary care physician behind when they enter college. My first few months in college were when I needed a trusted doctor the most, so this transition was really tough for me! We need to prepare students for success by making sure they know where to go for help. Solutions exist, but if students don’t know about them, they will continue to put wellness on the back burner.

Alison: Among the women in your network – and what you hear from women across the country – does the Supreme Court ruling on women’s reproductive health impact where women choose to go to the university? What are the factors that influence their decision one way or another?

Camden: Absolutely. It is really unfortunate that we have to think about whether abortion is legal or not in our decision to move to a new place. I’ve only lived full-time in Connecticut and New York, so despite Roe’s reversal, I always knew an abortion would be available to me if I needed it. I am truly privileged to be able to say this. I’m heading to graduate school in a few years and I really can’t see myself moving to a state that has banned abortion. I know my peers and I will also examine factors such as what this state is doing to protect its transgender teens, what it is doing to address our climate crisis, what it is doing to reform criminal justice and policing. It’s a crazy time to be going through right now, and staying aware and informed is really important to me.

Alisson: If you had one piece of advice for higher education officials when it came to supporting student well-being, what advice would you give?

Camden: First, I would ask, are your students even aware of the health resources available to them? Higher education leaders need to think about the real details here. Do students know where the campus health center is physically located? Do students receive information during orientation that they can take home? If you offer free contraception, are there signs on campus telling students where to find them? If you offer flu shots, do you set up a booth in a central location on campus where students can see you? How do students receive important Covid updates? It is also important that you explain what services you are unable to provide. One of the worst feelings, especially in times of need, is being turned away. If you cannot offer services such as 24/7 therapy or counseling on birth control and abortion, do you talk to students about resources that can?

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