U. sex health resources ranks high in US


The University ranked ninth out of 141 universities across the country in terms of available sexual health resources, according to Trojan's 2010 Sexual Health Report Card, putting it among the "Top 10 Sexually Healthy Schools."

The goal of the annual study was to compare the different schools, which represent 30 percent of all four-year undergraduate students, said Bert Sperling, president of Sperling's BestPlaces, which conducted research for the report.

"We had the report measure which schools are doing the best jobs of communicating information and providing resources and services for the students," Sperling said.

The University jumped more than 40 places from its former standing at No. 52, according to last year's sexual health report card.

University Health Services is doing a better job of getting the word out about sexual health resources, which may help explain the higher ranking, said Francesca Maresca, a senior health education specialist for Health Services.

"We never [say], ‘Since it worked last year, let's just do the same thing this year,'" Maresca said. "We're always trying to make our services more accessible to our student population."

Health Services enhanced its website and updated its content, Maresca said. Students can now make appointments online for services at any of the University's health centers.

The peer sexual health advocacy program at the University, Sexual Health Advocates, is also a probable cause for the high ranking, she said.

"These students are trained in an academic course that takes a whole semester on how to be effective sexual peer advocates, and they provide workshops that facilitate discussions in residence halls, student organizations, greek letter organizations — pretty much anybody who asks," Maresca said.

The clinical medical health services offer sexual health services, like annual exams and hormonal contraception, she said. Health Services also offers emergency contraception over the counter at reduced rates.

Clinicians at the University also have experience working with college-aged students and can answer questions, Maresca said.

Maresca filled out the required questionnaire herself this year, which researchers submitted for the report card.

The University's jump in ranking could possibly be attributed to this step, considering unofficial personnel, such as students, evaluated the campus' resources in the past, she said.

The researchers looked at 12 different criteria for evaluating student health centers, Sperling said. Some factors include hours of operation at the health centers, encouragement of drop-ins, contraceptive availability and prices, HIV/STD testing on campus, outreach programs, sexual assault programs and functionality of the website.

What was most important was the existence of an advice column or some method of providing anonymous advice regarding sexual health issues, Sperling said.

"What we do look at are the resources and the services and the information that's available to students so they can make their own best decisions regarding sexual health and activity," Sperling said.

The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is the only independent kind of analysis comparing the student health centers and the resources they have, Sperling said.

"It's great for their students," he said. "It allows them to initiate a dialogue with the administration, saying we would like information [and] more services available."

Although the study is useful, there are some flaws with the sexual health report card, Sperling said. For example, the researchers do not evaluate the amount of sexual activity on campus or numbers of students with sexually transmitted diseases.

School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Brianna Sanchez was proud that the health services on campus are ranked high.

"It's nice knowing that people outside of Rutgers can see that Health Services is paying attention to the sexual health of its students," Sanchez said. "I definitely feel like I can stay healthy through all of the different resources that are available on campus."

Health Services is working on the National College Health Assessment, Maresca said. Personnel are collecting health-related data from first-year students, sophomores and juniors, including that on sexual health, and will evaluate areas of need.


Reena Diamante

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