It may have been 20 years ago, but I remember my college experience clearly. Maybe because of the many hurdles I needed to overcome as an international student in New York City, notwithstanding the September 11th attack that happened less than two weeks into my freshman year! I know the focus of this piece is not to discuss the events of my college career, but I mention it because I believe for most young adults, college can seem like the Hunger Games, without the fight to death part of the course. Think about it. College students are thrown into an unknown environment to navigate housing, class registration, choosing majors, the teaching styles of professors, campus clubs, part-time jobs, and internships. If you’re a current student, throw a global pandemic in there.
Now back to my college experience. I remember the first time I got sick enough to see a doctor, and I had no clue how to access one without health insurance or a student health center. I was able to ask around and get the advice of other international students which led me to a local health center, where I would have to face another series of obstacles, but if successful, win the prize of affordable healthcare.
It would have been great to have someone walk me through this process of accessing healthcare before me being in a state of panic. It would have been great to have a Health Assessment from a Kiira clinician!
What is a health assessment?
When students log into their Kiira account for the first time they are invited to schedule a free 15-minute Health Assessment, the purpose of the Health Assessment is to help students reflect on their health, gain insight into recommended preventative exams, set goals for the upcoming semester.
Students get to also understand what resources are available to them through the Kiira app, their college’s student health center, and off-campus. The Kiira clinician is their Haymitch during this appointment, helping the student navigate the healthcare Arena.
The Health Assessment helps take out the guesswork that we often face when attempting to access healthcare. First, the student gets to rate their health by their standards and decide what improvements are needed. Secondly, the student is given evidence-based recommendations for what preventative services they need. And finally, the student knows where to go next and what to do if they ever get ill. The student also learns that they can always return to the app and chat with a clinician if they ever have a health-related question.
Current screening guidelines recommend cervical cancer screening with pap smears begin at age 21, however recent US data shows that only 62.5 percent of women between the ages of 21 to 25 report completing this test in the last three years, with rates as low as 44.4 percent in some US states. HPV vaccination is recommended for pre-teens beginning at age 11-12, and continues to be recommended until age 26. HPV vaccination may also be appropriate for some from ages 27 to 45. Cervical cancer is preventable with regular pap smears and HPV vaccination, yet over 14,000 cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2022, as only 51 percent of teenagers have been appropriately vaccinated against HPV. Other HPV related cancers include vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, throat cancer, anal cancer and penile cancer. Health assessments are an excellent time to discuss the importance of these cancer prevention studies and encourage scheduling of pap smears and HPV vaccinations as applicable.
Several of the Healthy People 2032 goals are focused on diagnoses and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in order to reduce complications of untreated infections. Screening guidelines vary by population, and many are unaware of what is most applicable to them. Screening is not only important for those with high risk sexual behaviors as rates of new STI cases continue to increase. During a health assessment, students are encouraged to recall when they were last screened for STIs, and guided through recommendations that are applicable. With more than 20 million STI cases being diagnosed annually in the US, early detection and treatment is vital.
Mental Health has become a priority for clinicians due to the COVID-19 pandemic having a major impact on our lives. Recent studies show that up to 44 percent of college students reported depression and anxiety symptoms, which are the leading causes of academic interruptions. Over 80 percent of students report that they experience periods of extreme stress during their college career, but half do not seek help from their institution. The most common resource I find myself referring students to is professional mental health services. While more and more students are seeking out mental health services, minority students often express difficulty finding mental health professionals that they can relate to, and are typically excited to connect with multicultural clinicians on the Kiira app.
During the Kiira health assessment we review other recommended screenings, vaccinations and review family medical history. It’s meant to be as comprehensive as possible, without being a huge time commitment for already busy college students.
Twenty years after starting college, I have learned that the Healthcare System can still be confusing as we grow older. As a physician, I do my best to assist my individual patients in navigating the system, but it can be frustrating even for me. For this reason, I enjoy meeting with students for Health Assessments, during which I can make one aspect of the college experience less daunting, and stack the odds in their favor.