CSUN students take nationwide health survey for incentive

Yohanna Figueroa

Several CSUN students were randomly selected to participate in a nationwide health assessment survey, but some said the questionnaire is slightly intrusive and personal.

The survey called the National College Health Assessment Web survey (NCHA-Web), which was sponsored by the American College Health Association (ACHA), will end March 31. The survey was designed to help the Klotz Student Health Center assess student health behaviors so that the center can redesign their programs to provide better services and support for CSUN students.

“The university has never thoroughly researched what the health needs are and the ACHA is providing a tool for us to do that,” said Susan Cohen, assistant director of the center. “This is the first evidence base survey of this magnitude we’ve ever implemented on our campus, which will help us plan our programs with evidence supporting it.”

The Student Health Center funded the service and will compare CSUN results with all the colleges in the nation who have also participated, Cohen said.

“We’re so grateful to have added (incentives), which is something kind of fun too,” Cohen said.

As an incentive the students are entered in a raffle for a $500 Matador Bookstore gift certificate, a $250 Matador Bookstore gift certificate and 20 free massages at the center.

Some students felt the incentives were motivating factors in their decision to take the survey.

“I took the survey because I was bored and didn’t have anything else to do,” said Sheena Edmonds, senior psychology major. “The incentives weren’t that bad either. I didn’t care about helping out the school at all, but the incentives definitely help.”

The NCHA-Web is completed online. Students were sent e-mail through their CSUN web address, inviting them to voluntarily participate.

The Institutional Research Center provided ACHA with CSUN student information in the survey.

“We provided the information of students’ names and addressees’ for this national survey and these things are done fairly routinely, we only give out information to confident agencies,” said Bettina Huber, director of Institutional Research. “Students are only invited to take the survey and if they don’t want to take it then they don’t.”

The e-mail students received inviting them to participate in the national survey warned, “There may be some personal discomfort with the content of certain questions. For example, there are questions regarding illegal behaviors such as illegal substance use and sexual behavior.” The e-mail assures that “participation is completely voluntary and confidential.”

A sample question from the survey that may be uncomfortable to answer reads: “Within the last 30 days, if you are sexually active, how many times did you have: A. Oral sex? B. Vaginal Intercourse C. Anal Intercourse.”

Some students felt some of the questions were “a little bit” intrusive.

“Why is that anyone’s business? But it wasn’t that bad,” Edmonds said. “The questions were somewhat repetitive and that was annoying, but I would take a survey similar to this again.”

Students have a choice to participate in the survey, to answer some questions, or they can choose to pull out during the survey whenever they want.

Some students feel confident that their personal information will remain confidential and not be shared with a third party.

“I don’t think they will (share information),” Edmonds said. “They should assign random numbers to the participants. I don’t think the names of the participants should have been a factor. It should be anonymous.”

Students who participated were assigned an ID number to secure the Internet server that manages the online survey input, the informational e-mail stated.

The e-mail sent informed survey applicants about the national health survey. The survey assured the applicants’ information, such as ID numbers and e-mail addresses, would be destroyed before the data would be collected and shared with CSUN.

The survey will end March 31. The results will be available in four to six weeks, Cohen said.

“We are excited for the results,” Cohen said. “From the results, in the next three months, we will be redesigning our health programs, like our prevention peer education program, clinic services and outreach programs, to be responsive to the results of the survey. The goal is to remove health barriers so students can do better at school.”

Cohen said so far the survey has collected information from 700 students who have participated.

“The more students we have to respond, the more information we can use to better improve our programs and the more successful we will be in reaching our goal,” she said.

Yohanna Figueroa can be reached at Yef71686@csun.edu.