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Tag: Accessibility

Improving Health Communication in Higher Education

(Best Practices and What to Avoid)

We all know what happens when communication breaks down – chaos erupts! Effective health communication is vital for promoting wellness and managing health concerns on college campuses. Understanding and applying best practices in health communication can significantly enhance health services utilization and the overall well-being of the student population.

Let’s dive into the essential elements of effective health communication, the application of health literacy models and plain language guidelines and identify common errors and opportunities for improvement.


Best Practices in Health Communication

1. Know Your Audience

Understanding the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs of your student population is crucial. Tailor your messages to address the specific concerns and preferences of different student groups, such as international students, students with disabilities, or those from various cultural backgrounds.

2. Utilize Multiple Channels

Students access information through various channels, including social media, email, campus websites, and physical materials (flyers, bulletin boards, etc.). Ensure your health messages are distributed through multiple platforms to maximize engagement. Use engaging visuals and multimedia content to capture attention and make information more accessible.

Learn more about promoting campus resources through social media here.

3. Be Clear & Concise

Clarity and brevity are essential in health communication. Avoid medical jargon and complex language that may confuse or overwhelm students. Use plain language guidelines to ensure your messages are easily understood. For example, instead of saying “administer medication,” use “take medicine.”

4. Foster Foster Two-Way Communication

Encourage feedback and dialogue with students. Create opportunities for students to ask questions, share concerns, and provide input on health initiatives. This can be done through online forums, in-person events, anonymous surveys, or suggestion boxes. Two-way communication builds trust and ensures that your messages are relevant and effective.

Applying Health Literacy Models and Plain Language Guidelines

Health Literacy Models

Health literacy involves the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information to make informed health decisions. Applying health literacy models can enhance the effectiveness of your communication efforts.

The Health Belief Model (HBM): The HBM can help predict and explain health behaviors by focusing on individuals’ beliefs about health conditions, perceived benefits of action, and barriers to action. Use this model to design messages that address perceived risks and emphasize the benefits of adopting healthy behaviors.

For example, to encourage students to get flu vaccinations, you might highlight the perceived severity of the flu by sharing stories of severe cases and the high risk of contagion in a campus environment.

Simultaneously, emphasize the benefits of vaccination, such as increased immunity, reduced absenteeism, and protection for vulnerable peers and campus staff. Address barriers by providing information on convenient campus vaccination clinics, reducing cost concerns, and dispelling myths about vaccine safety.

The Socio-Ecological Model (SEM): The SEM considers the complex interplay between individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and societal factors. Use this model to develop multi-level interventions that address various determinants of health and create supportive environments for behavior change.

For example, to encourage college students to take care of their mental health, you could implement individual-level strategies like providing access to online self-help resources and counseling services. At the interpersonal level, facilitate peer support groups and mental health awareness training for student leaders.

Moreover, advocate for policies that reduce academic stress, such as flexible deadlines and mental health days. Community-level interventions might include partnerships with local mental health organizations to provide workshops and resources. Lastly, at the societal level, engage in advocacy efforts to reduce stigma around mental health and promote broader cultural acceptance of seeking help.

Plain Language Guidelines

Plain language guidelines emphasize clear and straightforward communication. Here are some key principles:

  • Use simple words and sentences: Replace complex terms with simpler alternatives. For example, use “high blood pressure” instead of “hypertension.”
  • Be direct: State your main message at the beginning and keep sentences short.
  • Use active voice: Active voice is more engaging and easier to understand. For example, “Wash your hands” is better than “Hands should be washed.”
  • Organize information logically: Use headings, bullet points, and numbered lists to break down information and make it easier to scan.

Common Errors and Opportunities for Improvement

Error 1: Overloading Information

Providing too much information at once can overwhelm students and reduce the likelihood of them retaining key messages. Focus on delivering essential information in manageable chunks.

Opportunity: Prioritize and segment information visually. Use infographics and summaries to highlight key points.

Error 2: Ignoring Cultural Sensitivity

Health messages that do not consider cultural differences may be ineffective or even offensive to some students.

Opportunity: Engage with diverse student groups to understand their perspectives and tailor messages accordingly. Use culturally relevant examples, images, and language.

Error 3: Lack of Visual Appeal

Plain text messages may be ignored or overlooked, especially in today’s visually-driven digital landscape.

Opportunity: Incorporate visuals, such as images, videos, and infographics, to make messages more engaging and easier to understand.

Error 4: Inadequate Follow-Up

Sending out a health message without follow-up can lead to low engagement and missed opportunities for behavior change.

Opportunity: Use automated reminders and follow-up communications to reinforce messages. Provide support to encourage sustained behavior change.

Key Takeaways

Effective health communication on college campuses requires a strategic approach that considers the diverse needs of the student population. By applying health literacy models, adhering to plain language guidelines, and addressing common pitfalls, colleges of all sizes can enhance their communication efforts and promote a healthier campus environment.

Take health promotion a step further on your campus with Strategies to Boost Immunization Rates.

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Promoting Inclusive and Accessible Wellness Activities on College Campuses

According to the CDC, individuals with disabilities tend to rate their health lower compared to those without disabilities, (28.4% versus 61.4%). This emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture of inclusive and accessible wellness on campus. Let’s explore how you can create engaging and accessible wellness programs for your students.

Breaking Down Barriers

Beyond the Physical Accommodations

Going beyond physical accessibility is crucial. Consider sensory sensitivities, cognitive limitations, and language barriers when designing and implementing programs. According to Cognitive Disability and Postsecondary Education: A National Study on Earnings, “a student with an intellectual disability who earns a bachelor’s degree may earn 68% more than a student who did not go to college.” This stresses the importance of offering an environment where students with disabilities can thrive, and fostering an inclusive wellness atmosphere can meaningfully support this goal.

Language Matters

Inclusive communication is key to ensuring all students feel welcome and understood. According to the CDC, health promotion messages frequently neglect accessibility barriers faced by individuals with disabilities. These barriers include the absence of large-print or Braille materials for those with vision impairments, uncaptioned videos for those with hearing impairments, and complex language that may hinder comprehension for individuals with cognitive impairments.

Building an Inclusive Culture

Marketing for Everyone

Promote your wellness activities in diverse ways, utilizing channels that reach all student groups. Consider partnering with student organizations, utilizing social media platforms, and employing inclusive and inviting visuals in your marketing materials. For instance, consider including individuals with disabilities in posters that are hung around your wellness centers and on your school’s website. Furthermore, ensure that you’re using clear headings and easy-to-read fonts. If you’re using any videos to promote wellness and fitness centers on your campus, including captions is also essential.

Creating Safe Spaces

Foster a welcoming and supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable participating. This involves establishing clear guidelines against discrimination and harassment, promoting respect and understanding, and actively addressing any concerns raised by students. According to a report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University, college students experiencing discrimination are more inclined to report elevated levels of social isolation, suicidal thoughts, and overall distress to counselors compared to their counterparts. This underscores the critical importance of implementing proactive measures to address discrimination and promote inclusivity within the college campus community.

Making Wellness Accessible

Adapting Activities

Don’t be afraid to adapt existing activities to make them more accessible. Consider offering different difficulty levels, providing alternative formats for participation, and incorporating assistive technologies when necessary. This demonstrates flexibility and commitment to reaching all students.

Utilize Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool for enhancing accessibility. Utilize online platforms, virtual reality experiences, and assistive applications to broaden participation opportunities for students with various needs.

The Power of Partnerships

Collaborating with other campus resources can be invaluable in providing comprehensive wellness support. Wellness and fitness centers should partner with accessibility services, counseling centers, and student advocacy groups to leverage their expertise and expand their reach.

Creating an Integrated Health Strategy

Physical Activity

There’s up to a 30% reduced risk of early death, dementia, and Alzheimer’s among people who regularly exercise. These are just a few of the many benefits that could be gained from providing accessible physical activities. For instance, offer options for students to participate in a walking club, chair boxing, swimming, or gardening club. Some other activities include seated sports, rower cycling, water aerobics, and arm bicycling. There are so many ways to adapt physical activities to meet each student’s needs.

Nutrition Promotion

Promoting wellness amongst students with disabilities is not limited to physical activity. Ensuring that students are well-informed about their nutrition and having accessible, nutritious food on campus is also crucial. Since the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for about 95% of serotonin production, it’s evident that there exists a correlation between food and mental health. Ensure healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables are placed in high-traffic areas within food halls. Moreover, limit the amount of processed foods on campus, and ensure that healthy options are as affordable as possible – even lowering costs by 10% could make a positive impact!

Mental Health Support

A recent survey found that 40% of college students considered dropping out in the past six months due to mental health concerns, highlighting the critical need for accessible counseling services. Colleges can make counseling services more accessible by providing options such as remote sessions, ensuring physical spaces are wheelchair accessible, and offering materials in various formats to accommodate different disabilities.

Measuring Success

By leveraging technology, colleges can track and analyze student engagement in wellness programs more effectively. This data can reveal valuable insights into which student groups may be underrepresented in these programs, allowing colleges to identify areas for improvement and tailor their approach to better serve specific student populations, including those with disabilities.

Moreover, reporting available through your EHR and other campus systems can facilitate ongoing assessment and adjustment of your wellness initiatives, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently, and interventions are targeted where they are most needed.

Learn more about the power of reporting here. .

Key Takeaways

Making wellness activities inclusive and accessible takes a multi-pronged approach, but the rewards are significant. By embracing these practices, colleges can ensure every student thrives.

Explore how the College of Coastal Georgia leverages our tools to support Accessibility Services.

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Six Ways Software Can Help Your School Manage Accommodation Requests

The number of students who registered for accommodations at Texas A&M tripled between 2010 and 2020. With the increasing number of students requesting accommodations, schools must implement effective systems to optimize this process.

This is where tools like our accessibility services software can come into play. Let’s explore the features that can make the biggest difference for your team:

1. Secure Messaging

One of the key benefits of using accessibility services software is the ability for staff and students to communicate securely.  The software provides a secure messaging platform that allows for encrypted communication between students, staff, and healthcare providers. This ensures that confidential information remains protected and only accessible to authorized individuals.

2. Self-Scheduling Appointments

Gone are the days of long waiting times and scheduling conflicts. Students can easily schedule their appointments for accommodation services at their own convenience. This not only streamlines the appointment booking process but also empowers students to take control of their needs and well-being.

However, the benefits of self-scheduling extend beyond just convenience for students. The accommodation services staff also reap the benefits of this innovative feature. By having a clear overview of scheduled consultations and testing appointments, staff members can stay organized and allocate resources efficiently.

Learn more about the benefits of Patient Portals here.

3. Documentation Abilities

Custom Templates

Accurate and comprehensive documentation is crucial for staff to effectively manage accommodations for students. With appropriate tools in place, staff members can create custom templates and forms to manage various accommodation requests, allowing for a more personalized and efficient approach to documentation.

Memorandum of Accommodations

Moreover, staff can leverage this software to generate and securely store a Memo of Accommodations for each student. Plus, these documents can be securely messaged to the student once they have been finalized.

4. Simplified Clinic Management

SIS Interface

Integrating this tool with your Student Information System streamlines clinic management and improves efficiency. The integration eliminates the need for duplicate data entry, as student demographic information is automatically pulled in from the SIS.

Automated Task Reminders

Moreover, automated task reminders help staff stay organized. Reminders can be set for various tasks, such as following up with students, scheduling appointments, or reviewing accommodation requests. This helps to prevent any missed or delayed actions, ensuring that students receive timely and appropriate support.

Inter-Clinic Collaboration

Furthermore, accessibility services software allows for inter-clinic collaboration. Different departments and clinics within the college can easily share information and collaborate on accommodation plans for students. This promotes a coordinated approach to support and ensures that students’ needs are addressed holistically.

5. Robust Reporting Capabilities

Cross-Clinic Data and Trends

Utilizing software also allows for powerful reporting capabilities that can enable staff to analyze cross-clinic data and identify trends. This information can be used to better understand student needs, make data-driven decisions, and improve the overall quality of accommodation services.

Easy End-of-Year Reports

In addition, generating end-of-year reports becomes a breeze. Software can automatically compile relevant data and generate comprehensive reports, saving valuable time and effort for staff. These reports can be used for internal review, resource planning, or communicating outcomes and trends to college administrators and other stakeholders.

Uncover the impact of utilizing software-generated reporting throughout your entire campus.

6. Safeguarding Student Health Information

Lastly, using software (rather than paper and email-based systems) ensures compliance with HIPAA. A software system provides the necessary safeguards to maintain the privacy and security of sensitive student data, helping colleges avoid legal repercussions and safeguard student trust.

Take a deeper look into how EHRs safeguard student privacy.

Key Takeaways

The benefits of using accommodation services software on college campuses are significant. From secure messaging to efficient reporting, accommodations management software streamlines processes enhances communication, and promotes data privacy. By implementing this tool, colleges can ensure a seamless and effective accommodation experience for students, ultimately contributing to their academic success and well-being.

Interested in learning more? Connect with our team to see Medicat’s Accessibility Services Management Software in action!

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