Raili Burton

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Managing personal health among many students can be difficult due to the stress of classes, homework and maintaining relationships and a social life during their time at college.

Dr. Shelley Hamill, a master certified health education specialist and professor of health education at Winthrop University, appeared on the Palmetto Report podcast to give her insights on the skills students need in order to preserve their health while in college.

She said there are eight basic standards of health education.

“The first standard is about content, but every other standard is skill. We teach (students) things like goal-setting, decision-making, making sure that the resources that you’re looking at for information are valid and reliable, communication and being able to stand up for yourself, all of these standards are built around skills,” said Hamill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed eight standards for personal, family, and community health, including things like behavior, decision-making skills and the influence of media and technology.

“Weaving all those together while doing skills-based along the way and providing the opportunity for content, there’s a lot that goes into what health education is,” said Hamill.

She said there are many factors could cause a student’s well-being to not be maintained, which could include poor eating habits, lack of exercise, not managing stress properly or sexual activity without protection.

Hamill said college students should always be mindful of the repercussions of their actions.

“If you do get sick, it impacts going to class, which then impacts your grades, which may impact your scholarship or graduating on time,” she said.

There are a number of resources on the Winthrop campus, including recreation and wellness services at the West Center and Health and Counseling Services in the Crawford Building, which can assist students with physical and mental health.

For example, one service offered is a “well woman’s” checkup, which includes services like hemoglobin and thyroid function tests, breast and pelvic exams, heart rate and blood pressure checks, and a pap smear.

Madison Rhame, a Winthrop student who received the exam, said it makes it easy for her to receive annual health checkups when it’s right on campus.

“It keeps me up to date with going to the doctor,” said Rhame, who uses the annual exam in order to receive her birth control. “If I didn’t have to go for my birth control, I probably wouldn’t get the tests. I wouldn’t be as informed with my body without it.”

Free testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI) — such as HIV, gonorrhea or chlamydia — are also available on campus from Affinity Health of Rock Hill. Students are able to make an appointment through health and counseling services.

Hamill said students must be responsible if they’re going to be sexually active.

“If you are not mature enough to talk about your partner’s status or using protection, then you’re not mature enough to be engaging in sexual activity,” she said.

According to the CDC, South Carolina has the highest rate of HIV in the country for adults between the ages of 20 and 24.

However, Hamill said those numbers could be changed with more education on the topic.

“Are we doing enough job in our schools educating students in middle school and high school about HIV? My answer would be no,” Hamill said.

The CDC says HIV stigma comes from fear and outdated beliefs, which can prevent people from getting tested.

“Many of our ideas about HIV come from the HIV images that first appeared in the early 1980s. There are still misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted and what it means to live with HIV today,” according to the CDC website.

“We can’t treat (HIV) as a chronic disease, we have to treat it as a pathogen we really don’t want, while respecting the fact that somebody has contracted the virus,” Hamill said.