Those statistic begs to ask the question of how to provide the best appropriate healthcare possible. Public health is not only important to the nation as a whole, but also affects the type and range of care that students at St. Olaf College receive.
The policies and array of services offered by the Student Health Center have changed throughout the years. Up until 1980 St. Olaf provided students with a full-service hospital employing a full-time doctor and nurse. As the needs of students and the campus have morphed, so too has the health center's services.
Today the Health Service employs Shirley Herreid, R.N. and, serving double duty as receptionist and medical technologist, Michelle Johnson. Herreid has been at St. Olaf since 1975, serving the student community for 27 years.
"[Today] We provide clinical services much like any clinic you might go to at home," said Herreid. "For those needing urgent care they are referred to physicians at Northfield City Hospital."
Student attitude toward healthcare is debatable, with some wishing the college provided more services, while others feel that it is ample. According to Dean of Students Greg Kneser, "Healthcare can provide a range of services. I dont think anyone can ever provide enough for perceived need."
Across town, Carleton College, which provides healthcare to approximately 1500 students offers, "everything you need [in health services]" according to Carletons Wellness Center Director Cathy Carlson. Carleton provides an array of services melding different student and administrative programs into one center. Currently Carleton employs a full-time nurse practitioner and registered nurse as well as a part-time nurse practitioner.
"We are very busy all the time," said Carlson. "It is a well utilized part of the college."
In each Carleton dorm, there are Resident Assistants and Sexual Wellness Advisors that provide educational programs in dorms. They also provide students with a "sexual health lunchbox" which enables students to anonymously ask questions regarding sexual health issues that are answered by students posted in bathrooms.
Carleton provides students with condoms in dorms, ten condoms per dollar and puts condoms and lubricants in students P.O.s for a discount price upon request. Similarly, St. Olaf students have gotten involved with the student run organization Todays Healthy Intercourse Needs Condoms (THINC) which provides condoms to other students.
The face of St. Olafs health service has changed in the last five years, adding a receptionist with a medical background to aid Herreid in providing care to students. "We see [at the health center] depending on immunization and viral flus between 6,000 and 8,000 students a year approximately."
In the last year, Herreid saw 5,360 students, 216 of these were students searching out gynecological information. But numbers have reached as high as 5,833 student visits, 616 of which were gyneclogical in the 1993 to 1994 school year.
Although they cannot perform many of the STD tests, "A lot of people come in with questions, and we provide answers to any questions they ask, pointing them in the direction of where they can get the services they need," said Herreid "One of my main concerns is that students don't know we're here if we cant help them directly, we'll find them a place that can provide services confidentially."
Currently St. Olaf also uses its Wellness Center and Counseling Center to look directly at many public health concerns focusing on education. Assistant Coordinator of Wellness Programs Renee Sauter said, "Alcohol is a primary concern, sexual health is a huge issue. Its surprising to find out what students don't know. You can't take it for granted." The Wellness Center employs ten peer educators who put on seminars dealing with public health issues.
With Herreid planning on retiring next year the face of the Student Health Services will be changing. Dean Kneser says that it gives the college the opportunity to really think through what a place like St. Olaf should be doing regarding health care.
Expanding the services of the health facility doesnt seem likely. Kneser said, "The college doesn't have a lot of resources to expand, but good use of financial resources and looking for better ways to use money is key."
Kneser says that the college needs to address public health concerns, and that Herreid has been a strong advocate. "It is time to take another look regarding policies of public health, reproductive health, eating disorders, alcohol, drug use, and smoking." These are health issue for students, and the main question Kneser posed was how to address that issue.
People between the ages of 15 and 29 contract 86 percent of all sexually transmitted diseases, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. Kneser sees the availability of condoms and other contraceptives as not the solution, but rather that communication and intelligent decision-making necessary. "[St. Olaf] providing some level of support for reproductive health for students to make intelligent decisions is necessary."
The future of public health services provided by the school is unknown, but the facts show support and education as key features to educate students to make the right decisions for themselves.