October 7, 2008

Cornell Jumps to Third of 139 on Sexual Health Report Card

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“Ivy Leaguers love to be on top, and we’re not just talking academics,” according to Trojan Condom’s 2008 Sexual Health Report Card, their annual ranking of sexual health resources at American colleges and universities. This year, Cornell placed third out of 139 schools ranked, up from last year’s spot of 63rd.
According to Trojan Condom’s website, their ranking system represents each state and major athletic conference in the country, and measures the availability of sexual health resources and information on college campuses.
An independent research firm, Sperling’s BestPlaces, conducted the study by grading student health centers on health services ranging from anonymous advice via e-mail/column, hours of operation, availability of contraception, sexual assault programs and website usability, covering 13 categories in total.
According to Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s BestPlaces, this year’s research also included over 9,000 student responses to a questionnaire asking students five yes/no questions, such as “Would you consider contacting your student health center for sexual health questions?” and “Do you feel that your student health center offers complete services?”
When asked about Cornell’s leap in the rankings, Sperling cited Gannett Health Services’ combination of high-quality sexual health services as well as incredibly comprehensive web site as contributing factors to the rise in ranking. He added, “I’m not sure that another school received as uniformly high marks [in the 13 categories].”
However, Sperling noted, Trojan Condom’s study was not a measure of sexual activity on campus. Instead, Trojan Condoms aimed to make this information available so that students can make their own best choices and so that health professionals can have an independent scorecard to compare their health centers to those of other schools.
According to Trojan Condom’s website, America is not a sexually health nation. Each year, 19 million new sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed and 3 million unplanned pregnancies occur. Nearly 34 percent of teen girls will be pregnant at least once before age 20 and yet over 1 billion acts of sex between singles still go unprotected.
In response, Gannett has a wide array of resources and outreach to help students with all their sexual health needs. In particular, the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card noted Gannett’s comprehensive website which contains information on birth control, disease prevention and sexual assault, among other topics.
According to Jennifer Austin, communication specialist, Gannett is aware of the fact that the campus is extremely diverse. “Sexuality is on a continuum,” she explained, “so we provide support for anyone who comes for help.”
Such assistance can range from information on abstinence, to information on abortions and all forms of protection in between. Gannett’s website also contains information, especially for women, men, new students, graduate students, LGBT students, international students and students of color.
Additionally, Gannett can perform routine exams, pregnancy testing and HIV/STI testing. Gannett also has an experienced clinical counselor on staff who can deal with more complex sexual health concerns such as performance and sexual relationship issues.
However, some students prefer to go off campus for their sexual health care needs. Mirjam Jasiak ’10 went to Planned Parenthood to maintain a degree of personal comfort. “I don’t know whether Gannett would tell my parents [about the visit],” she explained, “and Planned Parenthood gives student discounts.”
Jeffrey Lipton ’10, on the other hand, felt very comfortable going to Gannett for sexual healthcare. “They are very professional about all aspects,” he said, “and very helpful and friendly. They pass no judgment and they make no assumptions they don’t have to.”
Eric Zatz ’10 agreed. He said, “I think [Gannett] provides good resources so we can go there and learn about [sexual health].”
However, he added, “Most people don’t go there. [Gannett] provides free samples of condoms, but they’re not good ones.”
Gannett stocks a diversity of brands of condoms in all waiting rooms, with a note to take two at a time. Student organizations such as fraternities and sororities can purchase condoms in bulk from Gannett’s pharmacy. The pharmacy also sells safe sex products such as spermicides, lubricants, personal massagers and self-help books on sexual health topics.
Addressing the persistent rumor that “Gannett is always asking if you’re pregnant,” Austin explained that “Students are relatively new consumers of adult health care.” Since students are treated as adults by health care professionals, they may not be aware of the normal questions that they may be asked.
For instance, Austin explained, suppose a female student comes to Gannett with an ankle sprain. If the ankle sprain is serious, doctors will need to know if she is pregnant before performing an x-ray test.
“We don’t ask because we’re curious,” Austin said. “It’s our legal responsibility to check this information. We are practicing good medicine — not making assumptions about your sex life.”
For the record, she added, “We do not ask men [if they are pregnant].”