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UI noted for sexual health

BY GRETA MEYLE | NOVEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa strides beyond other national colleges in both programs and encouragement of sexual-health resources available campus-wide, according to recent survey.

Accelerating four places forward since 2012, the UI achieved a fourth-place ranking in the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card by Sperling BestPlaces.

Stephanie Beecher, UI Student Health’s behavioral-health consultant, said she believes the ranking exemplifies the effect of the UI’s sexual-health programs.

“I’m definitely excited about our ranking,” she said, noting she’s “totally ecstatic.” Beecher pointed to the collaborative effort among different departments on campus and said the hard work has paid off.  

“I’ve noticed such a difference in students becoming more open to the topic and wanting to learn more, and this ranking only helps that,” she said.  “[It shows] we have great resources, a lot of information, and we’re approachable; I think that’s huge for us.”

Sperling BestPlaces assessed the impact of sexual-health resources at 140 major nationwide campuses. While the UI captured a place in the top 10, just behind Princeton University, Columbia University, and the University of Arizona. Iowa State University was ranked 90th.

Noting ISU does not believe the survey holds scientific value, Lauri Dusselier, the program coordinator of the Thielen Student Health Center, said ISU did not respond thoroughly to the report.

“Because [the survey was] administered by … Trojan, and they actually start off by collecting information from student health information staff, we chose not to participate in it,” Dusselier said. “It is not scientific, some of the criteria are not scientifically found for sexual health. We don’t put a lot of credibility into this survey.”

Sperling BestPlaces was unable to be reached as of Tuesday.

Noting her hopes to improve in the rankings every year, Beecher had a differing opinion altogether.

“These rankings really look at what everyone else is doing — and ultimately I think it’s about students and making sure that they’re safe and they can succeed,” Beecher said. “I look at the top-three schools and say what they are doing that we can do — I still want to beat them, though. It’s all about getting our boots on the ground, collaboration, and getting the word out there so we can create a welcoming, inclusive environment.”

Some of the marketing efforts include encouraging student involvement in a variety of different types of programming including a free HIV testing day on Dec. 7, a “condom crawl,” and a blog site on which students can ask sex-related questions of two doctors at the UI.

One program Student Health offers is “Get Yourself Tested Month,” occurring in April; it offers free chlamydia and gonorrhea tests. In 2013, 284 students were tested compared with 210 students in 2012.

UI Student Health communicated with 2,653 individuals for sexual outreach this past year, which is up nearly 25 percent from last year’s numbers.  

Students can also go beyond campus outreach programs to receive sexual-health information in Iowa City. Rape Victim Advocacy Program Assistant Director Karen Siler said there are a lot of programs across campus that do a great job of making sure their students are informed, and this showed through the survey results.

“I think that the efforts … and attention they’ve made to these types of things show a commitment to the university in that they do these types of things,” Siler said. “I’m not surprised, I think the thing is that we care enough to pay attention, and we always want to improve.”


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