Mar 03 2009 Posted: 00:00 GMT
The development of a central online health information resource for third-level students is recommended by a report from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway. According to the report, there appears to be a gap in information provision specifically targeting young adults facing health issues. A range of health issues affect third-level students, with alcohol misuse, mental health and sexual health foremost. The feasibility study, entitled 'Exploring the Feasibility of Developing Internet Based Health Promotion Materials for Third-Level Students' was developed in conjunction with medical, research and health promotion professionals at UCC, Trinity and the Health Service Executive. The report found that the provision of easily accessible, up-to-date, accurate and relevant information about key health issues, as well as information on available local services, is crucial to better support students' health. The report concluded that third-level institutions offer a key setting to promote better health, as places where students develop personally and socially. Cindy Dring, Health Promotion Officer at NUI Galway, said: 'We need to go some way to tackling health issues among young adults, and providing information is a fundamental step. Third-level education is the perfect setting for online health communication. Students have the communication network and infrastructure. They are also constantly online, whether for their studies or for social networking". While there is an immense variety of health websites available, there are credibility issues with many of them, according to the report. Results indicate that students use the internet, specifically the Google search engine, to find health information. However they also expressed a sense of mistrust with this. The report's proposed desktop resource would be ideally placed to address these concerns, and the involvement of the HSE and third-level institutions would confer credibility upon the project. "We already know that similar resources have worked in other countries, like in Scotland, for example", said Dr David McGrath, Director of the Trinity Health Service. "What we didn't know, was what Irish students would want from such a service, or what was possible from a technical point of view, since each university has its own systems in place. This project has answered some of these questions for us". The project explored the appropriateness of existing online health resources for this cohort, assesses the views of students, includes input from IT staff from each college on technical issues and gives recommendations to move the project to from planning to execution stage. Dr Michael Byrne, Head of the Student Health Service at UCC commented: "It is the first step towards developing one central online health resource that could be localised by each University and that would be potentially available to all Irish students. The next step is to develop a prototype and to try to gain further support and funding for this important project". "We want to provide Irish students with an accessible way to engage with their health and to be able to assess their own risky behaviours. We feel that a shared resource for universities would provide a 'value for money' way of addressing student health and we welcome this partnership with the University Health Services", said Brian Neeson from Population Health, Health Promotion in the HSE.