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Healthy Universities: a guiding framework for universities to examine the distinctive health needs of its own student population.

Holt, M and Powell, S (2017) Healthy Universities: a guiding framework for universities to examine the distinctive health needs of its own student population. Perspectives in public health, 137 (1). pp. 53-58. ISSN 1757-9139

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Abstract

The underlying principle of settings for health is that investments in health are made within social systems in which health is not necessarily the main remit. In order to understand the health needs of its own community, a growing movement of Healthy Universities is interested in applying the approach within the higher education sector. This study examined the student health behaviours of one university so that future initiatives can be tailored to its own student population.Quantitative data were gathered from 3,683 students studying at a UK urban university. A 60-question online student questionnaire focusing on seven key topic areas was used to gather data and simple descriptive statistics are used to present key findings.The study has identified a need for considering alternative ways of engaging students with appropriate health services throughout the academic year. A focus for university initiatives around healthy eating options, how to cook healthy food and the importance of keeping hydrated is highlighted as a common need. Risky behaviour involving alcohol, drug and substance use and sexual activity suggests a strong argument for not separating university sexual health and alcohol interventions.Underpinned by the Healthy Universities settings concept, this study examined the health and wellbeing behaviours of one university's own student population. It highlights behaviours within the university that are similar to national averages, and some that are not. This understanding can inform the planning of future health promoting university initiatives to meet the distinctive needs of its own students.

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