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Survey reveals student health concerns

Portland State University students find it very important to have access to anonymous HIV testing.

That fact emerged from a recent survey by the Student Health Service. The survey attempted to assess health service needs at the university.

Of the 321 students surveyed, 189, or 69.2 percent, rated the HIV testing “very important.” Coming close behind at 68.1 percent was urgent care for illness or injury. Other items rating high in the very important category were contraception and family planning, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, women’s health services, free condoms and on-site counseling.

Surprising were the low priorities given to alternative health treatments, in the light of considerable vocal interest in such disciplines, chiropractic services drew 38.9 percent “less important,” naturopathy 31.9 percent and massage therapy 42.5 percent in the same “less important” category.

The service rated lowest in the “very important” category was sports medicine at 15.3 percent.

Results of the survey became especially relevant this year after student government conducted a late September survey of student concerns. That survey polled 500 students in residence at that time. Students were asked to pick the three most important issues they wanted to be examined by student government.

Aaron Bertrand, communications director for ASPSU student government, said the students honed in on credit card vendors, health care and a diversity requirement for academic studies. This week student government formed 28 interns into three teams to study the three topics. The studies will include student surveys.

Bertrand said in the case of health services, the issues possibly may involve providing extended hours, providing weekend service and providing more alternative health care options.

The health service and Counseling and Psychological Services have recognized student interest in alternative health care. They have sponsored two alternative health fairs on campus, one this year and one in 1999. The fairs presented the practitioners of various alternative health disciplines not directly offered on campus. The demonstrations this year included chiropractic, naturopathy, affinity counseling, Thai massage, nutrition and supplements, biofeedback and psychotherapy, physical therapy, spiritual bodywork, infant care, women’s health, aromatherapy, organic produce, feng shui, reiki, yoga, dance, mind-body medicine and midwife birthing.

Some of these are available to students through their PSU health insurance policy. The insurance will pay specified amounts if a student consults a licensed chiropractor, for example. The health service has an insurance booklet which can refer students to an insurance information telephone number.

The health service survey showed that more than 80 percent considered themselves in very good or good health and only 0.3 percent in poor health. Almost 62 percent had never been sick enough in the previous month to miss class or work. More than 46 percent had never used the health service this year and more than 35 percent had never used the service. Almost half of these said it was because they used their own providers.

The health service is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 57.8 percent of respondents listed that as the time most important to have appointments available. Later evening hours were listed by 19.3 percent, Saturday mornings by 3.7 percent and weekends by 11.6 percent.

The survey sample was 58.6 percent female, about the same percentage as the general student population. The largest category was graduate students, 31.5 percent. More than half were employed for at least 10 hours a week. Most, 69 percent, lived off-campus. The largest age category was 23-27 at 34 percent. More than a third had been one year at the university.