Student health and wellness encompasses a broad range of physical, mental, and spiritual services, programs, and environments.
Strategic planning for student health and wellness involves a campuswide commitment to integrating health and wellness issues across the campus. The effort requires recognizing and changing environments and practices that threaten wellness, increasing access to quality care, and increasing opportunities for students to make choices that positively affect their well-being. Helping students become or remain physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy is a duty of the safe and supportive learning environment. Strategic planning can ensure that health and wellness issues are considered alongside other institutional goals and objectives.
Student health is more than providing medical care for students experiencing illness. Strategic planners must think broadly about the ways in which campus life inside and outside the classroom affects and is affected by the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its students. This includes exploring ways in which campus living and learning environments can enhance and support proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, recreation, positive coping strategies, healthy social and sexual relationships, and a sense of belonging.
Strategic planners must consider the critical role that prevention plays in helping students make healthy choices. Planners must move beyond educating students about health dangers and develop systems that truly prevent future health problems caused by excessive alcohol use, substance misuse, poor sleep or nutrition, lack of exercise and recreation, and negative coping practices. Opportunities for brief intervention, environmental management, and greater access to services must be forged in the planning process.
The American College Health Association, among others, has a number of resources that can help guide strategic planners in all aspects of health and wellness, from changes in student insurance and health care created by the Affordable Care Act to strategies to enhance student health and wellness. The association also conducts a national survey of student health and wellness, which institutions can deploy on their own campuses for assessment and planning purposes.