It is Women’s History Month, and everytime around this year, I am reminded of why exactly I decided to build a healthcare company dedicated to young people. I believe that college is such a pivotal point in a young person's life and a unique opportunity to introduce them to positive experiences of healthcare.
Why does women's health on college campuses matter?
I vividly remember my early college years transitioning from an entirely different country to the US and straight into college as a young woman. I battled with the initial culture shock and the rigors of college as well as the realities that in fact my body and my life had started changing rapidly.
One of the moments that really defined my healthcare journey was a negative health experience which was both as a result of lack of access to care but also discomfort when it came to sharing what was going on with me from a women's health perspective.
Young women tend to shy away from discussing topics around sexual health, periods and even mental health needs. Women’s reproductive health tends to be an awkward topic of conversation for a lot of young people. It is stigmatized to such an extent that women never really want to talk about it, even if it means risking their own health so it is important to develop ways to change women's health and how it is perceived by young people starting in their reproductive age which tends to fall during college years.
I understand that a lot of changes have come upon us and the student health experiences have improved significantly with the adoption of personalized and virtual care so in this article I will be highlighting the new trends towards creating safe spaces for care and what female students on college campuses need and deserve.
A college women's health program:
College can be a very confusing and life changing time in a young women's life and sometimes young college women ae away from home for the first time, experiencing new changes in their bodies and even
My Suggestion: College admins need to work towards encouraging young women to safely utilize healthcare services by promoting women’s health, gynecology, std awareness, HPV vaccinations, cancer screenings and other women specific initiatives on campus that make female students feel seen and heard. One idea for any college that does not have one is to provide a women’s resource center which is usually a safe space for women to discuss and explore the issues that affect them.
A Healthcare Diversity and Inclusion strategy:
We have all heard this in different forms. “Students really need providers who look like and represent them” what this means is that representation is key in building trust with female students so providing a diverse healthcare team of clinicians who identify as either female or non binary can really help the women on your college campus feel seen and safe when engaging with healthcare.
My suggestion: It is very important to give the women on your college campus the options to meet with providers that represent their specific and unique needs. It is also important to listen to and pay attention when students say they need specific representation. I have been asked this question “we have a diverse team, Is it simply just a false perception?” My answer is no. If your students say they don't feel seen or represented, then they really do not. So spend time with your students, ask more questions and based on your true findings, you can either make the right hires or contract out resources as needed but whatever you do, make sure you are putting students' actual needs first.
Provide mental health resources and programs for women
Along with all the physical needs that women need on college campuses also comes their emotional and psychological needs. We all know that the rigors of college can lead to increased stress and anxiety in a young person, some of which are very unique to women so it is important to always think from a standpoint of providing whole person care.
My suggestion: Provide women on college campuses with a variety of options when it comes to seeking mental healthcare which can include group counseling, ongoing talk therapy or counseling, treatment plans and psychiatric evaluations with licensed professionals as well as prescriptions as needed.
Create a care plan for your students
Sometimes, the difference between staying healthy and falling sick is knowing what to do when. Just like students select classes and decide on what their school calendar will look like, it Is important to know what their health milestones and goals need to be throughout a school year.
My suggestion: Encourage health assessments and setting annual baselines. In these assessments, you can work with students to create care plans that will allow them to truly stay on top of their care and schedule every women's wellness exam, birth control refills, every flu shot and other needs which can be identified by speaking to a provider.
Plan for around the clock care and emergency services
Anything can happen at any time and we know that sometimes the most pressing issues occur late at night when either the health centers are closed or when students are away on trips or vacations. This could be a respiratory issue, abdominal pail or even reporting sexual assault.
My Suggestion: Invest in after hours or 24/7 services that are accessible from anywhere. Nurse hotlines, basic life support measures or virtual care services for telemedicine and other care can really bridge the gap in care when it comes to providing what students need when they need it before advanced care becomes available. Creating after hour protocols either by hiring teams of care or contracting with individuals who specialize in emergency triage during hours not covered by your college could be the difference between a student getting the care they need and not. This has the reward of saving lives and making students feel safe and cared for at all times.
Develop a health and wellness education program
Students have been seen to not be the most proactive when it comes to their healthcare. Let’s face it, with a high workload, navigating life and deciding what internship or summer class to participate in, sometimes your health can be de-prioritized and thats true even for adults but with proper education on what is available, how to seek care and how to identify care need students will be able to engage better with care provided.
My Suggestion: Create programs for education that are geared towards wellness and not only illness. Hosting workshops, eventsWith rise of active student advocacy committees and leadership there is a unique opportunity to leverage the help of student groups on college campuses and educate young women on their care, wellness and all the resources available to them.
As we celebrate women's history month it is important to remember that our young college women are really the future of women's health and it is our collective opportunity to ensure that their needs are met, their voices are heard and their outcomes are improved now and in the future.
This can all be made possible with affordable and represented care and adequate programs or information to help them stay healthy and happy while in school and of course perform at their highest potential.
If you are interested in working with a dedicated care team for women on your college campus or simply trying to develop a care strategy please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org