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The Washington Post Misses the Mark: College Health Centers Are Critical to Keeping Students Safe as Campuses Reopen

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, college health centers continue to provide high quality, accessible care to millions of students.

The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) CEO, Dr. Devin Jopp, released a statement countering several false claims made by the Washington Post in a recent investigative report:

The Washington Post’s investigative report on July 13th grossly mischaracterizes college health centers as “the Wild West of medical care.”

While we empathize with the students and their experiences referenced in this article—their frustration and pain are clear—college health centers provide excellent care for millions of college students nationwide. With 20 million college students in the U.S., The Washington Post drew conclusions from less than .01% of the total enrolled student body. ACHA’s Patient Satisfaction survey found that 86.2% of students indicated that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their student health center experience.

This article also falsely states that no regulations for college health centers exists and that these centers are not licensed. The providers in these health centers are in fact licensed and governed by their local and state boards and adhere to the same guidelines and standards of care followed by other community medical, nursing, and mental health providers. 

Additionally, this article makes wide generalizations without substantiating with facts. To the point of accessibility, many college health centers have same day appointments and at the very least triage to determine urgency level.

The Washington Post also fails to recognize the countless times that college health centers have been mobilized to help prevent the spread of diseases on campus and the illnesses and deaths that have been prevented.

For years, college health centers have played a critical role in helping campuses mitigate outbreaks—SARS, seasonal flu, H1N1, measles, and meningitis to name a few. While the COVID-19s pandemic overshadows all others, student health center staff are the experts on whom campus leaders must rely. As we state in our reopening guidelines, the “student health service remains central to public health effort[s] and must have sufficient resources to address both COVID-19 surveillance and containment along with all other routine health and well-being needs of students.”

Ultimately, the Washington Post fails to differentiate how college health centers are different than any other healthcare organizations that may also have unhappy or disgruntled patients. The use of random student stories to paint an inaccurate picture of college health centers is not fair and balanced journalism. It’s notable that the Washington Post refused to publish ACHA’s rebuttal, and we strongly urge the Washington Post leadership to review the integrity of its investigative journalism.

As campuses prepare to re-open in the fall, this is the time to recognize the critical importance of our campus college health centers and the value that they add in student education, wellness, retention, and success.

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About ACHA

The American College Health Association is a national nonprofit association serving as the nation’s principal leadership organization for advancing the health of college students and campus communities through advocacy, education, and research. For more information, visit www.acha.org.

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