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Enriching Student Lives through Health Education

Below are the questions asked of each Level 3 proposal.  Scroll down below the horizontal line to see the answers.

Contact person:  Holly Irwin

Short description of the plan.

  • This proposal is about a whole-person approach to enriching students' lives at Millsaps College - an approach that adds education about the body to the already-existing educational program dealing with the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of student lives. It is a two-part program that will strive to integrate health education and healthy lifestyle choices into Millsaps students' everyday experience.
  • The first part of this program aims to present Millsaps students with relevant and practical health education topics during their first year in college through the Foundations program. Students will discuss the importance of these issues and learn how to incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyle. Students will also discuss how to utilize health resources as well as health staff and employees on campus. Topics would be specific to most college students and would include sleep/stress management, sexual education, mental health, women/men's health, nutrition, drugs/alcohol. Campus medical procedures will also be discussed at this time.
  • The second part of this program will involve the continuation of this education through the practice of the learned healthy lifestyle choices discussed in the student's first year. Students will be required to complete a health/physical fitness credit during each semester after their first year at Millsaps in order to graduate. These credits are to be completed by participating in approved activities, including (but not limited to) participation in any physical fitness club, using the HAC (Hall Activities Center) facilities, and participating in sports and/or intramurals. Students will have their hours approved by a health professional hired by Millsaps College to facilitate health education and activities on campus. During this time students must also complete a full medical physical assessment, one during the freshman year, one during the senior year.

What specifically would this plan require and how would it work?

  • Part one: First year students will be presented with health education topics during their first year in college through the Foundations program. During the student's time in Foundations the following topics will be discussed in detail in a group setting with two student leaders (trained and guided by a health education specialist) facilitating the conversation:

    -stress management/sleep
    -sexual education
    -mental health
    -women's/men's health

    Discussions about these topics will cover how students relate to the topics at this point in their life, how to become more aware of the good habits practiced concerning each topic, and how would they handle a situation involving this topic (identifying good campus resources to go to if needed). Discussions would focus on creating long lasting healthy lifestyle choices. During this time campus contacts concerning these issues will appear in meetings and introduce themselves to students and offer their services.
  • Part two: continuation of learned health education--students will be required to complete a 1 hour (non-academic) health credit every semester after their first year. A list of approved clubs and activities will be created for students to reference in order to complete their hour each semester. This list will include, but is not limited to, participating in a varsity sport and/or intramural team, being involved in a club incorporating physical activity, and engaging in moderate physical activity such as brisk walking, light jogging, elliptical, bike riding, and ballroom dancing.

    A health professional (a registered nurse or health educator with at least a masters degree) will be hired to be the primary educator and liaison between students and various campus resources in completing the needed health credits to graduate. This person will provide advice and support as well as recommend a suitable contact if further assistance is required. They will also plan special on campus events calling student attention to a wide range of health topics; possibly allowing for limited testing and screening of certain conditions. They will assist with possible health related changes made to campus if applicable. These changes could include restructuring of health related clubs, implementation of new health clubs, and additions made to existing entities concerning everyday health on campus; ie the caf/kava, the HAC, and campus facilities. These additions might include more hand sanitizing areas and nutrition labels/information made available.

What would be the timeline for implementing each part of this plan?

  • Part one: To be completed in the student's first year by attending the required Foundations meetings.
  • Part two: Students will work to complete a 1 hour (non-academic) health credit any time during each semester following their first year, for a total of 6 semesters.

What are the specific learning outcomes for this proposed QEP?

  • Through this program, there will be many changes in student's behavior, values, and knowledge.
  • Change in behavior will be in the form of more student participation in physical fitness activities on campus. Students will spend more time using the HAC facilities and participating in physical fitness related clubs on campus, as well as committing time to a personal fitness routine. Students will also be assessed on lifestyle choices and how their behavior outside of class has improved due to this increase of physical fitness.
  • Change in values will be measured through the expression of how important physical fitness is in a student's life. After participating in the first year health education, as well as continuing to participate in physical fitness activities, students will likely experience a change in value by expressing how important physical activity is to them.
  • Changes in knowledge will be seen through an increase in general health knowledge. Students will be able to answer general health questions with more accuracy than before participating in this program. There is also the hope that there will be a correlation between an increase in physical activity and increased GPA scores for student participants.

How might these learning outcomes be assessed?

  • Behavior assessment:
  • In order to assess an increase of student participation in physical fitness clubs and an increase of HAC facilities, a record of attendance to these clubs and the number of times the HAC facilities are used will be documented. To examine student's lifestyle behavior change, a survey questioning specific habits such as sleeping and eating habits will be conducted before and after the program. The data collected will provide evidence supporting healthy lifestyle change as a result of required physical activity and health education.
  • Value assessment:
  • In order to assess a positive change in value associated with physical activity and health education, the same survey above will include questions relating to personal value of physical activity. Student responses will be matched with the amount of physical activity they are individually involved in and assessed accordingly.
  • Knowledge assessment:
  • In order to assess an increase in general health knowledge, a general health test will be created with the help of a medical professional and administered to students before and after the program. The student's difference in scores will then be assessed.
  • Other assessments:
  • Correlations between increased physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices with retention rates and GPA would also be examined with the hope that these will improve due to student involvement in a strong physically active campus community. The completed physical assessment of each student will also be examined for change in physical health improvements.

What population of students would this proposed QEP affect?

  • All undergraduate students

To what extent would this plan change amounts and expectations of faculty workload?

  • A credentialed health professional would organize, coordinate, educate students, and train Foundations leaders.  Faculty would be provided information about health and health support systems on campus to use in advising if needed but faculty workload would be otherwise unaffected.

To what extent would this plan change amounts and expectations of staff workload?

  • A credentialed health professional would organize, coordinate, educate students, and train Foundations leaders. The campus nurse, psychologists, and student life personnel would be informed about health issues, the health education program, and about how to contact appropriate resources, but staff workload would be otherwise unaffected.

How does this plan further the mission of the college? Benefit our students? Why does the college need this plan?

  • This plan furthers the mission of the college by contributing to academic excellence and personal growth through promoting the well-established correlation between moderate physical activity and improved academic performance (see the research literature section). It also addresses something of a gap in Millsaps' education of the whole person, however.
  • Currently, Millsaps focuses a great deal on students' intellectual growth through education, as well as students' spiritual growth through service-oriented organizations, faith exploration, and vocational reflection. However, the physical body is often left out. Students would benefit from this program by becoming more aware of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, understanding what it means to take care of oneself physically, and would start to develop the skills of healthful living.
  • It is worth noting that our specific regional and cultural context is important here. Mississippi is ranked by the CDC as the unhealthiest state in the country, with the highest obesity rates, the highest sedentary lifestyle rates, and very high rates of preventable lifestyle-related illness. With this program, Millsaps would show the public that they are taking the initiative to educate future leaders about what it means to be healthy.

Are there other programs already on campus that this proposed QEP would augment or replace?

  • This program would fit in with the Foundations program by allowing health education become one of the main discussion topics. Other current physical activity clubs already established on campus would be further developed and would be used to fulfill students' required physical fitness hours during their last three years in school. A health professional would need to be hired to facilitate health education and physical activities on campus. This member of the staff will need to be available as a resource for students in order to approve of and complete the hours of physical activity. In general, however, this plan would not replace any existing program. It would only add and augent.

What are the cost estimates for implementing this plan?

  • Health Educator salary: $34,000-38,000/yr (as indicated by PayScale.com)
  • Money needed to organize health related on campus events (screening/testing): $2000/yr
  • Informational materials and items: $5000/yr
  • Funding for physical fitness clubs: $2000/yr
  • Funding for testing/assessing learning outcomes: $1000/yr
  • Funding for changes made to existing health resources (hand sanitizers, nutrition labels): $1000 initially
  • Estimated total annual cost:  approximately $45,000

    -- Students will pay for a personal physical (one freshman year and senior year), but this would not count toward college expenditures:  $200 each

What does the research literature suggest about the benefits of this kind of plan?

  • In addition to obvious advantages to physical health, a preliminary review of the research literature suggests that participation in moderate physical activity significantly improves cognitive function, mental health, and academic performance.

  • Cognitive improvement
    Research shows that basic cognitive function is improved with moderate physical activity.
    1. Rene Arcelin, Didier Delignieres, and Jeanick Brisswater, "Selective Effects of Physical Exercise on Choice Reaction Process," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1998, 87, 175-185. Arelin, Delignieres, and Brisswater (1998) evaluated subject's reaction time, having them perform various "choice reaction tasks" after biking for three ten minute bouts. Results showed reasonable support that moderate physical activity improved selective information processing.
    2. EEF Hogervost, Wim Riedel, Asker Jeukendrup, and Jelle Jolles, "Cognitive Performance after Strenuous Physical Exercise," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1996, 83, 479-488. Hogervost, Riedel, Jeukendrup, and Jolles (1996) examined trained athletes ability to perform psychomotor and cognitive tests, as see by varying reaction times, after participating in a bicycle ergometer endurance test. The test showed an increase in speed performance after exercise.
    3. Benjamin A. Sibley, Jennifer L. Etnier, Guy C. Le Masurier, "Effects of an Acute Bout of Exercise on Cognitive Aspects of Stroop Performance," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 28, Issue 3, September 2006. Sibley, Etnier, and Le Masurier (2006) evaluated college aged subjects' performance on Stroop color-word interference and negative priming tests. Results found improved performance on the Stroop color-word interference tasks and no change in performance on the negative priming tests.
    4. Christopher Hertzog, Arthur F. Kramer, Robert S. Wilson, Ulman Lindenberger, "Enrichment Effects on Adult Cognitive Development: Can the Functional Capacity of Older Adults Be Preserved and Enhanced," Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9 (1): 1-65. Hertzog, Kramer, Wilson, and Lindenberger examined improvement of cognitive performance across the lifespan, with a specific interest in old age. Researchers concluded their findings saying, "We conclude that, on balance, the available evidence favors the hypothesis that maintaining an intellectually engaged and physically active lifestyle promotes successful cognitive aging."

  • Mental health improvement
    Research shows overall mental health benefits from moderate exercise. These benefits include self esteem and positive mood, and lower level of depression and other clinical issues.
    1. Daniel I. Rees and Joseph J. Sabia, "Exercise and Adolescent Mental Health: New Evidence from Longitudinal Data," The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2010, 13-25. In a recent study, Rees and Sabia (2010) demonstrated that increased physical activity can substantially improve adolescent psychological well-being.
    2. Laura Desha, Jenny Ziviani, Jan Nicholson, Graham Martin, Ross Darnell, "Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms in American Adolescents," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 29, Issue 4, August 2007, 534-543. In another study by Desha, Ziviani, Nicholson, Martin, and Darnell (2007) results suggested "Males who were not involved in sporting clubs or lessons were more likely than males who were highly involved to experience greater severity of depressive symptoms."
    3. Rylee Dionigi, "Resistance Training and Older Adults' Beliefs about Psychological Benefits: The Importance of Self-Efficacy and Social Interaction," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2007, 723-746. A study by Dionigi (2007) suggests that after older adults participated in a 12 week moderate to high resistance training program, "participants believed that resistance training enhanced their well-being, and they gave various physical, mental, and social reasons to explain this link."
    4. Martina Kanning, Wolfgang Schlicht, "Be Active and Become Happy: An Ecological Momentary Assessment of Physical Activity and Mood," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 32, Issue 2, April 2010, 253-261. Kanning and Schilcht (2010) found in similar study that physical activity positivly affecs mood, stating, "A multilevel analysis indicates that the three dimensions of mood were positively affected by episodes of physical activity, such as walking or gardening."

  • Academic improvement
    Research shows improved academic performance as a result of moderate physical activity.
  • 1. Darla M. Castelli, Charles H. Hillman, Sarah M. Buck, Heather E. Erwin, "Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third-and Fifth-Grade Students," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 29, Issue 2, April 2007, 239-252. Castelli, Hillman, Buck, and Erwin (2007) examined 259 public school students in grades third and fifth and found that physical activity tests were related to academic achievement stating, "Associations were demonstrated in total academic achievement, mathematics achievement, and reading achievement, thus suggesting that aspects of physical fitness may be globally related to academic performance in preadolescents."
    2. Benjamin A. Sibley, Sian Beilock, "Exercise and Working Memory: An Individual Differences Investigation," Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2007, 783-791. Sibley and Beilock (2007) examined a group of healthy adults' working memory by comparing performance in a nonexercise versus a 30-minute treadmill exercise session. It was concluded that, "This work suggests that acute bouts of exercise may be most beneficial for healthy adults whose cognitive performance is generally the lowest."

Are there other programs like this elsewhere and what have been their results?  Are there best practices?

  • Yes, other programs like this can be found at many of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, including Davidson College, Hamilton College, Haverford College, Rhodes College, Swarthmore College, and Sweet Briar College. Larger schools, such as Columbia University, also have similar programs. Such schools consider the health program to be important to their overall missions and believe they provide both a physical and academic benefit to their students.
  • Best practices among these schools include:
    1. At minimum of a one semester freshman seminar on wellness and health
    2. At least one semester (often more than one semester) of classes that require physical activity
    3. Mandatory swimming proficiency
    4. Health and Fitness classes are often non credit classes
    5. Classes are often evaluated as pass/fail based on attendance and participation

Organizational Charts (Program Organization, Administrative Organization, Assessment Organization, and Student Experience chart)