written by: Sarah E. I. Menefee, Padma R. Entsuah, Alicia K. Czachowski, and Joleen M. Nevers
Student Affairs professionals are essential for enhancing student health and well-being. The Standards of Practice for Health Promotion in Higher Education is a guiding document, essential to Health Promotion work (American College Health Association, 2019). Through examples, this article illustrates how the application of the Standards of Practice can help Student Affairs professionals advocate for important of health promotion processes, create healthy environments, and achieve student health outcomes.
Key Words: health promotion, health, well-being, standards of practice
Student health and well-being are inherently linked to student experiences in higher education and goals such as retention, student satisfaction, graduation rates, and other benchmarks (Institute of Medicine & National Research Council, 2015). The field of Health Promotion works to support student health and well-being, and thus student success. The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) Standards of Practice for Health Promotion in Higher Education (Standards of Practice) outlines key tenets and expectations for Health Promotion professionals. This publication was created based on knowledge, expertise, and current evidence of best practices in Health Promotion in higher education. The Standards of Practice describes the role of Health Promotion in institutions of higher education and informs the future direction of the field (American College Health Association [ACHA], 2019). The purpose of this article is to directly connect Student Affairs professionals to the Standards of Practice and explain how to use it when working with or supervising Health Promotion colleagues, or when leading health promotion processes. By understanding and using the Standards of Practice, Student Affairs professionals can work with and lead Health Promotion process to help enhance student health and well-being.
Through articles such as this, the authors aim to introduce those outside of Health Promotion in higher education to the field, to create better understanding, collaboration, and prioritization of effective strategies for advancing student health and well-being.
Health Promotion in Higher Education
Health Promotion is an evolving field that focuses not just on individual health, but also considers the impact that relationships, culture within communities, policies, and environments have on health and well-being (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). This approach requires professionals to use a “positive, proactive approach, moving beyond a focus on individual behaviour, towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions” (World Health Organization [WHO], n.d., para. 1). It is not enough to educate individual students about certain health topics; efforts must also focus on addressing the social and environmental factors that influence health and well-being (Braveman & Gottlieb, 2014).
Health Promotion is critical to higher education. ACHA states that “[a]t colleges and universities, health promotion serves the core mission of higher education by supporting students and creating healthy learning environments” (n.d.-b, para. 1). In a 2017 commentary, Lederer and Oswalt argue for the importance of Health Promotion for students. They describe how college students experience some health challenges at higher rates than their peers who are not enrolled at institutions of higher education, and how behaviors and health problems formed during college can continue into adulthood and may lead to chronic diseases. Furthermore, they describe the link between negative health behaviors and academic outcomes such as lower GPA (Lederer & Oswalt, 2017).
Health Promotion and Student Affairs
The Student Affairs and Health Promotion fields are complementary, if not connected. Therefore, it is important for Student Affairs professionals to understand Health Promotion processes. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Wellness and Health Promotion Benchmark Survey (2011) shows that the majority of Health Promotion departments are located within a Division of Student Affairs. Additionally, 64% of the 2018 ACHA Health Promotion Section Needs Assessment respondents stated that they are members of NASPA (ACHA, 2018). Therefore, Health Promotion professionals at an institution of higher education are often, also Student Affairs professionals.
For NASPA, health, safety, and well-being are focus areas.
“Encompassing the areas of substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, sexual violence prevention, mental health, and wellness and health promotion leadership, NASPA’s work in the health, safety and well-being area serves the advancement of knowledge and evolution of practice for higher education professionals focused on all aspects of student health” (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], n.d., para. 1).
Furthermore, the American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [ACPA/NASPA] Professional Competencies Rubric (2016) outlines competencies that are connected to student health and well-being and therefore overlap with Health Promotion processes. For example, the Advising and Supporting competency states that by “developing advising and supporting strategies that take into account self-knowledge and the needs of others, we play critical roles in advancing the holistic wellness of ourselves, our students, and our colleagues” (ACPA/NASPA, 2016, p. 10). In addition, the dimensions of this competency, specifically partnering with others and professional development, are also standards for Health Promotion professionals. Other competencies that are connected to Health Promotion include Assessment, Evaluation, and Research; Personal and Ethical Foundations; Leadership; Social Justice and Inclusion; and Student Learning and Development (ACPA/NASPA, 2016).
Student Affairs professionals who supervise or direct a Health Promotion department have the power to make budgetary decisions or decisions on the direction of division initiatives. In addition, Student Affairs professionals may collaborate on Health Promotion processes, whether or not the Health Promotion department is within Student Affairs. Through this article, we aim to help Student Affairs professionals better understand the processes involved in promoting student health and well-being. By operating from a shared framework, Health Promotion and Student Affairs professionals can strategically and effectively work towards advancing student health and well-being.
The Standards of Practice
In 1996, ACHA appointed the Task Force on Health Promotion in Higher Education to develop professional standards of practice for the field (Zimmer, et al., 2003). The first edition of the Standards of Practice was released in 2001and it was reviewed and updated in 2005, 2012 and 2019 ((ACHA, 2001; ACHA, 2005; ACHA, 2012; ACHA, 2019). The 2019 revision included significant changes such as an expanded introduction, new guiding principles, updates to many sub-standards, a new standard, and the addition of a glossary of terms and resource list (ACHA, 2019).
The Standards of Practice is intended for a wide audience ranging from experienced Health Promotion professionals to those new to the field as well as those with other backgrounds or areas of expertise. The Standards of Practice can be used to better understand and effectively implement Health Promotion processes in higher education. Furthermore, it can be used to guide planning efforts and evaluate how the work is done. Professionals across institutions of higher education can use the Standards of Practice to learn more and advocate for the essential role of Health Promotion for student success.
While there are several resources for Health Promotion professionals in higher education that help shape the field, the Standards of Practice is unique as it uses standards and sub-standards to outline strategies for doing effective Health Promotion work. The document serves as an ideal to strive toward, therefore it is not expected that an institution or professional address every standard and sub-standard. It establishes a clear and consistent understanding of how to do Health Promotion work, allowing those serving their communities to more comprehensively and effectively enhance environments that support student success. Furthermore, in addition to the standards themselves, the publication also offers important background, context, terminology, framing, and resources for the field of Health Promotion in higher education.
The Standards of Practice includes a narrative opening, individual standards, a glossary of terms, and a list of essential Health Promotion resources. The narrative includes a brief history of the Standards of Practice, information about the field of Health Promotion in higher education, and principles that guide the individual standards. This section of the Standards of Practice provides the reader with more context about the field such as the connection to student success and the collaboration required for effective Health Promotion processes. The glossary allows readers to have common language and understanding of the terms so they can appropriately apply the individual standards. Finally, there is a resource section with documents, websites, books, and articles for further reading about key concepts related to Health Promotion in higher education (ACHA, 2019).
Application of Individual Standards
The Standards of Practice is designed to help institutions of higher education successfully prevent health challenges and promote well-being. To effectively do so, it is important to understand the individual standards and their importance for Health Promotion processes. These standards are outlined in Table 1 and are available within the full Standards of Practice publication on the ACHA website. Standards 1, 7, and 8 are likely similar to Student Affairs practice; therefore, the section below will focus on Standards 2-6 (ACHA, 2019).
Table 1. 2019 Standards of Practice for Health Promotion in Higher Education (AHCA, 2019).
||Applying the Standards
|Standard 1: Alignment with the Missions of Higher Education
Facilitate processes that cultivate a healthy community so students can thrive and reach their fullest potential
|In order to support student success, health and well-being must be prioritized in all facets of the institutional culture. This includes the mission, vision, values, and strategic priorities across the campus and departments.
|Standard 2: Socioecological-Based Practice
Address campus and community health and well-being at all levels of the socioecological model
|Interventions should be aimed at multiple levels of the socioecological model, with a focus on the population level, in order to effectively address complex health issues (Glanz, K., Rimer, B., Viswanath, K., 2015).
|Standard 3: Collaboration
Effective practice of health promotion in higher education requires a shared responsibility of all campus and community members to enhance health and well-being
|Health and well-being are not the responsibility of one person or office. It requires collaboration to ensure that efforts and initiatives to promote campus health and well-being are aligned and coordinated across the institution.
|Standard 4: Inclusive Practice
Demonstrate cultural humility and inclusivity
|Removing systemic barriers and involving marginalized populations in Health Promotion work is essential to reducing health disparities and achieving health equity among campus populations. (Braverman, Arkin, Orleans, Proctor, & Plough, 2017).
|Standard 5: Theory-Based Practice
Understand and apply accepted interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks and planning models that address the well-being of the community
|Theories and frameworks outline proven strategies for addressing complex health issues and, therefore should be used to when planning and developing initiatives (Glanz, K., et al., 2015).
|Standard 6: Evidence-Informed Practice
Understand and utilize evidence to inform health promotion processes and initiatives
|In order to effectively address complex health issues, Health Promotion processes should use the best available quantitative and qualitative evidence to design and evaluate initiatives (Tasmanian Government Department of Health, n.d.).
|Standard 7: Continuing Professional Development
Engage in ongoing professional development in order to build skills and maintain up-to-date knowledge of the field
|Health Promotion in higher education is an ever-evolving field, therefore it is essential to prioritize professional development to stay informed about current trends, practices, and terminology.
|Standard 8: Service to the Field
Contribute professionally to the field both on- and off-campus
|To advance the field, professionals must share their knowledge and experience through mentoring, reporting on campus practices, updating guiding documents, and publishing research.
Standard 2: Socioecological-Based Practice
An essential framework in Health Promotion is the Socioecological Model (SEM). This framework, and the associated standard highlight that individual factors such as knowledge, interpersonal factors such as social expectations or peer pressure, and environmental factors such as physical access or campus policies all influence health and well-being (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). The SEM posits that student health and well-being cannot be effectively addressed by targeting only one set of factors; instead, to have the most impact, professionals must address all of them, with an emphasis on the environmental factors (CDC, 2021).
For example, to address the complex health challenge of high-risk drinking, targeting one element, such as knowledge of how the body processes alcohol, is not sufficient to impact change. A more comprehensive approach would combine interventions that target multiple levels of the SEM. These interventions could include strategies for combating peer pressure, examining individual attitudes, shifting social norms, enhancing campus policies, and reducing high risk drinking events. Another community and policy level intervention that can strengthen efforts to address high-risk drinking could be to build relationships with local bars and establish agreements around enforcing campus drinking policies. Working at all levels of the SEM provides a comprehensive and effective approach to addressing complex health issues. Interventions at each level complement and reinforce each other to form a more effective approach to addressing this health challenge.
Standard 3: Collaboration
Collaboration is key to Health Promotion practice. The Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges (2015) states, “health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but must engage all sectors to take an explicit stance in favour of health, equity, social justice and sustainability for all, while recognizing that the well-being of people, places and the planet are interdependent” (p. 4). While many offices on campus have specific responsibilities and initiatives that they solely oversee, Health Promotion processes are most effective when done in collaboration with other departments and offices across the institution (ACHA, 2019). There are a multitude of factors that influence student health concerns, therefore departments outside of Health Promotion must recognize their critical role in supporting student health and well-being.
Standard 4: Inclusive Practice
While the concept of inclusive practice is not new to Student Affairs professionals, its importance to health-related outcomes cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that oppressive systems contribute to poorer health. Marginalized populations are at risk for worse health outcomes due to many factors such as worse treatment at health care facilities and the cumulative stress of systemic racism (Mays et al., 2007, Gee & Ford, 2011). In order to address the health inequities, Health Promotion efforts must address these systemic issues.
When reviewing policies and practices, professionals should be critical of the voices advocating for initiatives and aware of what populations are represented in associated research. Reducing health inequities requires dismantling the systems that contribute to these inequities and advocating for the inclusion of marginalized populations in Health Promotion processes. Furthermore, it is important to recognize the barriers that may contribute to worse health outcomes among these populations. There is a history of distrust of the healthcare system among marginalized groups due to unethical research practices, misdiagnosis of health issues, and racism in the healthcare sector, among other reasons (Scharff et al., 2010). Therefore, all those doing Health Promotion work should have an inclusive and equity-minded focus. By examining policies and the environments that contribute to health and well-being, professionals will work to remove or minimize these barriers.
Standard 5: Theory-Based Practice
This standard emphasizes that, similar to the field of Student Affairs, theory is essential to Health Promotion practice. Within the Health Promotion field, professionals use a variety of theories from both Public Health and Student Development. These theories have been studied and demonstrate strategies for changing behavior. Common constructs across many behavioral change theories include addressing attitudes, norms, confidence, skills, intentions, and environmental factors that impact one’s ability and motivation to perform healthy behaviors (Glanz et al., 2015). By learning to apply and grounding Health Promotion processes in theory, efforts are more likely to be successful (Glanz et al., 2015).
Standard 6: Evidence-Informed Practice
Effective Health Promotion practice requires review of the best available evidence for, and continued evaluation of, existing programs and initiatives. This standard moves the field past initiatives that show, for example, creativity, but have little to no impact on the health and well-being of the community. Instead, the focus should be on initiatives created based on existing evidence and measured to evaluate success.
Although ‘evidence – based’ is a term commonly used to describe interventions, it is limited. This term was first developed for the medical field as “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current evidence in making decisions about care of individual patients” (Sackett, 1997, p. 71). However, when developing Health Promotion processes, research-based data is not always available to show effectiveness of interventions. By using the term evidence-informed, the Standards of Practice reminds professionals to use the best available quantitative and qualitative evidence to design and evaluate health promotion processes (Tasmanian Department of Health, n.d.). Evidence-informed data can be found through other institutions, databases, journal articles, local evaluation data, and non-governmental organizations, among others. As an example, with vaping, and other emerging health problems, there will likely be limited evidence of effective prevention strategies. However, professionals can apply proven strategies from related issues, such as smoking prevention, to emerging health problems and then evaluate these initiatives to determine impact.
Importance of the Standards of Practice to Student Affairs
The Standards of Practice is important for advancing health and well-being on college campuses. Those working toward this goal, including Higher Education professionals, can use the Standards of Practice in a variety of contexts. Specifically, the document can be used to improve health outcomes; as a framework to facilitate collaborations with campus partners; and as a tool to advocate for particular approaches or resources.
Achieving health outcomes
Achieving intended health outcomes requires Student Affairs and Health Promotion professionals to engage in a coordinated effort to best meet students’ needs. Effective Health Promotion processes that advance health across campus require evidence-informed practices, the SEM, goal setting, and theory-based practice.
Using evidence from published research and local data, while also building on community assets, helps inform strategies for enhancing student health and well-being. Historically, Health Promotion efforts focused on planning events, such as workshops and trainings, as a way to build individual knowledge and skills. In isolation, these strategies have limited effectiveness in combating complex health challenges impacting campuses (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021). However, these programs often continue because of their established history on campus. To challenge this narrow scope of continuing historical programs, the Standards of Practice pushes those implementing Health Promotion processes to use evidence-informed strategies that are shown to advance health and well-being within populations.
It is important to think of Health Promotion as a larger strategy that addresses health and well-being from multiple angles. By applying the SEM, professionals acknowledge that individual factors such as lack of knowledge, interpersonal factors such as peer pressure, and environmental factors such as policies all influence health and well-being (CDC, 2021). The Standards of Practice emphasizes that student health and well-being cannot be effectively addressed by targeting only one set of factors. To have the most impact these issues should be addressed at every level of the SEM with a stronger emphasis on the environment and policies that impact the entire population.
As Health Promotion and Public Health have evolved, professionals have identified and published proven strategies to address health concerns in different populations. Establishing best practices requires evaluation of outlined goals and objectives to ensure the initiative achieves the intended outcomes. To increase the likelihood that efforts will address student health issues, it is important to set clear goals and objectives, both for specific initiatives and for improving the health of overall populations; discontinue programs that do not meet intended goals; evaluate new initiatives for effectiveness; and create interventions grounded in available evidence (Fernandez, Ruiter, Markham, & Kok, 2019). In a crisis or when pressured to do so, professionals may quickly implement a program or initiative without evidence of efficacy on the intended behavior or population. These initiatives may not achieve the intended outcomes if there are no clearly articulated goals and objectives, the components of the program or initiative are not consistent with the objectives, or there is no clear plan for evaluation to measure outcomes or limitations. The Standards of Practice emphasizes that effective Health Promotion work draws from an existing evidence base and evaluates goals and objectives.
Campuses that view health as the responsibility of all can align health and well-being efforts across the institution. The role of the entire institution of higher education in student well-being is highlighted in the 2020 document titled Health And Well‑Being In Higher Education: A Commitment to Student Success, published by a consortium of higher education organizations, including National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and ACHA. This document states that “it is time to transcend reactive, siloed, programmatic approaches to health and establish foundational, proactive, well-being initiatives for the campus community” (National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association [NIRSA], 2019, p. 1). Through the joint statement the participating organizations recognize that “by focusing on the whole — the whole person, the whole educational experience, the whole institution, the whole community — well-being becomes a multifaceted goal and a shared responsibility for the entire campus” (NIRSA, 2019, p. 1). The environments that contribute to health behavior are complex and influenced by policies and practices across the institution, and therefore cannot be effectively addressed by one person or department. For example, Health Promotion efforts to reduce stress will be less impactful if faculty have contrasting messages and policies. Similarly, attempts to change campus policies around high-risk drinking should include Conduct Officers and Resident Assistants to ensure enforcement is consistent across the institution. Collaboration across the university allows for a coordinated approach to advance health and well-being across a campus. The Standards of Practice facilitates collaborations by establishing common understanding, goals, and language for advancing student health and well-being.
To effectively address complex health issues, any higher education professional can use the Standards of Practice to ensure messages, policies, and programming will complement and reinforce each other.
The Standards of Practice is an advocacy tool — whether advocating for resources, such as staffing, or for evidence-informed approaches to Health Promotion processes. The introduction of the Standards of Practice describes the complexities of promoting health and well-being on campus. To address the health issues students encounter, it requires specific skills as outlined by the individual standards. Student Affairs professionals are vital advocates for Health Promotion, as they may supervise or collaborate with Health Promotion offices. While it is often easier to justify the need for additional funding and human capital to support students during a crisis, it is important to address student concerns proactively. Prevention initiatives that address the environmental level of the SEM take time to show impact, and thus may be challenging to fund and support. Therefore, Student Affairs professionals can use the Standards of Practice to advocate for the processes, skills, and resources necessary for long-term, proactive prevention strategies to enhance student health and well-being.
The Standards of Practice can also be used to advocate for using best practices to promote student health and well-being. If an institution applies the individual standards, they will be challenged to implement theory and evidence-informed strategies that are evaluated for effectiveness. This document can help institutions shift towards more effective Health Promotion processes and phase out ineffective strategies that exist based on historical precedent.
Using the Standards of Practice
The Standards of Practice is a comprehensive document that outlines how to effectively and proactively address complex health issues impacting college students. Although it may not be possible to achieve each standard and sub-standard, the publication provides an ideal for a campus to strive toward. Because there are so many uses for the publication, the examples below highlight how to apply the Standards of Practice to potential scenarios.
Using the Standards of Practice – Advocacy
Your Student Affairs colleagues are questioning how the Health Promotion staff you supervise are using their time. Your colleagues point out that in the past, the Health Promotion team spent a lot of time presenting to social groups and students in residence halls, however, they’ve noticed a decrease in those educational programs. Instead, the team has been spending more time in coalition meetings and proposing new campus policies.
The Standards of Practice can help to describe this shift in priorities that has likely occurred on many college campuses. The introduction of the document outlines the evolving nature of the field of Health Promotion in higher education. In addition, several individual standards support this type of shift in Health Promotion approaches.
Standard 6: Evidence-Informed Practice can help colleagues recognize the importance of putting time and energy into strategies that have the greatest success in advancing community health and well-being (ACHA, 2019). Educational programs have limited effectiveness in changing behavior and thus should be used sparingly or in combination with more impactful strategies. This standard acknowledges that evidence of the impact of different interventions should lead to the use of strategies that have the largest impact on a community.
In addition, Standard 2: Socioecological Based Practice emphasizes that addressing complex health challenges requires professionals to work at all levels of the SEM model, with a focus on the environmental level (ACHA, 2019). Some may believe that strategies such as presentations, which focus on individual knowledge and skill-building, are the best way to combat these health challenges. Instead of this approach, Student Affairs professionals can advocate for a collaborative, environmental approach, understanding that environmental change requires a coordinated effort across campus. This is reinforced in Standard 3: Collaboration, which highlights the importance of health and well-being as an institutional responsibility, requiring coalition building and committee work to ensure processes are implemented across the university (ACHA, 2019). In addition, there is evidence to suggest that coalition-building is effective for changing culture, tying in Standard 6 again (ACHA, 2019; Butterfoss, 2013).
As someone who supervises Health Promotion professionals, you can use the Standards of Practice to educate colleagues about the importance of this work. In addition, your advocacy will reinforce that Health Promotion efforts that follow the Standards of Practice are best positioned to effectively advance the health of the community.
Using the Standards of Practice – Achieving health outcomes
Your university is trying to implement a comprehensive plan for ensuring minimal COVID-19 transmission. As you explore the various factors that contribute to individual and community risk, you must also consider which campus partners to involve in the planning and implementation of these efforts.
Navigating infectious disease outbreaks, including pandemics such as COVID-19, is a complex issue that requires individuals and departments from across the university to implement a comprehensive strategy. In order to minimize the transmission of diseases such as COVID-19 and reduce the number of cases in the community, it is critical to prioritize Health Promotion and Public Health practices.
As outlined in Standard 2: Socioecological-Based Practice, complex health issues must be addressed at multiple levels in order to achieve the desired health outcomes (ACHA, 2019). In the case of COVID-19, the different levels include: individual ability, attitudes toward, and motivations for following Public Health guidance; skills for encouraging peers to follow strategies for minimizing risk; community norms and expectations for wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing; and policies related to holding community members accountable for following these practices. In order to work at the different levels of the SEM, it is important to collaborate with partners across campus to ensure this work is done in a coordinated and consistent manner, as outlined in Standard 3: Collaboration (ACHA, 2019). An individual Health Promotion unit cannot achieve those goals on their own; it requires a commitment from the entire university to be implemented effectively.
To enhance COVID-19 prevention efforts, an institution should employ evidence-informed strategies as outlined in Standard 6: Evidence-Informed Practice (ACHA, 2019). When faced with a new or existing health concern, it is important to review existing literature and data to develop a promising strategy based on available evidence to increase the chance of achieving intended health outcomes. For example, while bystander intervention has not been researched as a strategy for this exact context, it has shown effectiveness for other health topics such as sexual violence prevention (Labhardt et al., 2017). Borrowing this concept, bystander intervention skills can be used to encourage students to approach peers who are not following Public Health guidelines such as mask wearing. By evaluating the effectiveness of using existing strategies with new health topics, you contribute to the evidence so others can also achieve health outcomes. This is included in Standard 8: Service to the Field (ACHA, 2019).
Consistent with the Student Affairs field, Health Promotion professionals utilize theory to inform their work, as outlined in Standard 5: Theory-Based Practice (ACHA, 2019). Health Promotion draws on a variety of theories, including public health, student development, and psychology, to develop initiatives that achieve intended health outcomes. For infectious disease outbreaks, professionals can draw on these theories to encourage behavior change—whether that is related to adherence to public health guidance or vaccine acceptance.
At the environmental level of the SEM, universities could establish policies and community expectations related to COVID-19. These policies should consider the impact on marginalized populations, as stated in Standard 4: Inclusive Practice (ACHA, 2019). For instance, does the policy contribute to discrimination against particular populations? How will the policy be enforced, and does it put an undue burden on certain identities? Does the policy provide ample resources and opportunities for individuals to follow it? It is also important that consequences for those who do not follow requirements is equitable and does not unduly burden individuals or populations.
Student Affairs professionals are often the first to be included in such conversations that impact student life. Those who are invited to the table and are familiar with the Standards of Practice are well-positioned to make an impact.
Using the Standards of Practice – Working together
Campus data suggests that students are not getting adequate amounts of sleep, and students perceive that this is impacting their ability to succeed. As a Student Affairs professional, you’ve been asked to sit on a coalition to address this issue, and you aren’t sure why a community approach is needed.
Student sleep habits may be influenced by environmental factors beyond an individual’s control. However, changing an environment is challenging and requires a number of strategies, thus many campus constituents should be involved in the process. Standard 3: Collaboration in the Standards of Practice emphasizes that health and well-being are not the responsibility of only one person or department, but should be viewed as a collective responsibility across campus (ACHA, 2019). Therefore, it is helpful to have a committee or coalition of campus partners collectively working to understand and address this issue facing students. Some departments and individuals to invite to the coalition could include Dining, Housing, Library staff, Residence Life, faculty, and others.
It is important to collect data on the factors that impact students’ sleep to better understand this health issue. It is helpful to collect data using the Socioecological Model (SEM), outlined in Standard 2, to ensure that all potential factors are considered (ACHA, 2019). In the context of student sleep habits, the data collected at each SEM level could include: whether students understand good sleep habits and know how to make time for sleep (individual level); whether students feel pressured by peers to stay up late (interpersonal level); and factors outside of the individual’s control such as class and meeting times, residence hall quiet hours policies, and hours buildings are open (environmental level).
Addressing these factors requires coordination and collaboration across the campus community. For example, research suggests that timing and content of meals can impact sleep quality (Godos et al., 2021). In a committee or coalition setting, the Dining staff can use this information to determine the hours when meals are available as well as the types of food offered. Furthermore, individuals get better sleep in darkness so Housing can use this data to establish policies and practices around when lights are turned off in the residence halls (Pauley, 2004). Some students may also feel pressure to stay awake later because libraries and academic buildings or other study spaces are still open. Leaders from Libraries or Facilities may consider adjusting building hours to limit how late students are staying awake in these facilities.
Though topics such as sleep are typically overseen by campus health or Health Promotion departments, there are opportunities for groups across campus to come together to more holistically address this issue.
Conclusion and Additional Information
By applying the Standards of Practice, Student Affairs professionals can help make significant impacts to student health and well-being on their campus. Having knowledge and appreciation for the most effective ways to impact a population will make all those who use the Standards of Practice vital campus partners in the journey to improve campus health outcomes.
Some professionals may want to learn more about Health Promotion in higher education and there are many additional resources that can provide that additional information and support. The full version of the Standards of Practice for Health Promotion in Higher Education is available on the American College Health Association’s website (ACHA, 2019). Another useful ACHA document is the Guidelines for Hiring Health Promotion Professionals in Higher Education which helps apply the standards to building successful health promotion teams (ACHA, 2014). Both the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) and the Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC, n.d.) have sections for Health Promotion (CAS, 2016). The World Health Organization published the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) outlining actions for Health promotion, while the international Okanagan Charter for Health Promoting Universities (2015) focuses on viewing health more broadly on college campuses. In addition to these resources, there is also a resources section in the full Standards of Practice publication that includes others, particularly for those aiming to learn more about specific subject areas (ACHA, 2019).
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Sarah E. I. Menefee, MPH, CHES has been working in Higher Education for over 15 years. She currently teaches undergraduate Public Health, but previously worked in Health Promotion with many focus areas including mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention. Sarah has held several American College Health Association leadership roles, including Health Promotion Section Chair.
Padma R. Entsuah, MPH, CHES has been working in Health Promotion in Higher Education for almost ten years. With their background in public health, they have worked on education and strategy related to a number of health and well-being related topics such as stress management, sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and sexual violence prevention. Padma has served on many American College Health Association committees and leadership roles, including Chair of the Program Planning Committee.
Alicia K. Czachowski, EdD, MPH, CHES has been working in Health Promotion in Higher Education for more than 15 years. While much of their background focuses on substance abuse prevention, they also have extensive experience in mental health and well-being, sleep hygiene, sexual assault prevention, and assessment. Alicia has served on many American College Health Association committees and coalitions, including as the Chair for the Health Promotion Section.
Joleen M. Nevers, MAEd, CHES, CSE, CSES has been working in Health Promotion in Higher Education for more than twenty years. Their background is in sexuality education, boundaries and ethics, development and implementation of peer education groups, and leadership and mentoring. Joleen has served in numerous leadership positions for the American College Health Association and NASPA and served on committees for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapist.