Title page for ETD etd-09062011-145745

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Goodwin, Stephanie Kay
URN etd-09062011-145745
Title Development of the University Health Index to Examine the Interface between Campus Environment and Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Weight in College Students
Degree PhD
Department Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hosig, Kathryn Wright Committee Chair
Redican, Kerry J. Committee Member
Schroeder, Aaron D. Committee Member
Serrano, Elena L. Committee Member
You, Wen Committee Member
  • physical activity
  • weight
  • university health environment
  • nutrition
  • College students
Date of Defense 2011-09-02
Availability unrestricted
Since many adolescents experience the transition to young adulthood in

college, the university health environment could play a significant role in

addressing the current rise in chronic disease and obesity epidemic. The

University Health Index for Nutrition and Physical Activity (UHI) tool, guided by

the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) K-12 School Health Index,

was developed to evaluate the associations between the university health

environment and student health outcomes related to nutrition, physical activity, and


Several studies were conducted to examine what university characteristics

are most strongly associated with college student health habits related to weight,

nutrition, and physical activity behaviors. These studies culminated in a study to

develop and validate the UHI. A request soliciting participation in the completion

of the UHI was posted on the American College Health Association (ACHA)

listserve. The final dataset used for analysis included 13 universities (N = 19) with

a total of 9,460 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) student participants.

Data were analyzed using Mixed-effects REML regression model adjusting for

clustering effects, with statistical significance set at p < 0.05 and trends set a p <

0.10. Data were analyzed to determine associations between the total UHI score,

individual module scores, and individual components of each module with student

outcomes from the NCHA data (fruit/vegetable intake per day, days per week of

aerobic and strength physical activity, and body mass index: BMI; kg/m2

calculated from self-reported height and weight).

Total UHI score was not significantly associated with outcome variables

related to BMI, nutrition, or physical activity. The total health promotion module,

however, was associated with vigorous physical activity (coefficient = 0.095; SE =

0.048; p = 0.046) and the built environment was associated with moderate physical

activity (coefficient = 0.029; SE = 0.017; p = 0.096) and with high fruit and

vegetable intake (coefficient = 0.021; SE = 0.011; p = 0.061). Individual questions

related to recreational sports and fitness and nutrition and/or weight management

counseling were associated with outcome variables as well. Measures for physical activity are better developed than for nutrition as there was only one nutrition

question available with limited utility in terms of data analysis to test the UHI.

Studying the university health environment and college students’ health

habits related to weight, nutrition, and physical activity is multifaceted and

challenging. Unlike the K-12 school system, there is not a central university entity

with jurisdiction over health-related student issues. Instead, health-related student

issues and services are the responsibility of a variety of departments at a university

and it is difficult to realize the complete university health environment. Results of

this research can be used to refine future versions of the UHI and to continue to

investigate the university characteristics that are most strongly associated with

specific student health behaviors and outcomes related to nutrition, physical

activity, and weight.

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