Recently a health educator at one of our client universities asked us this question. The short answer is that our editorial approaches are based in best practices in health communication and public health, including cultural competence. Our content is developed with substantial input from our Professional Advisory Board, Student Advisory Board, client colleges, the thousands of students we survey every month, and representative data from ACHA and other sources.
For the longer answer, read on. We welcome your questions and suggestions in the comments section.
SH101 is published monthly in multiple editions addressing the varying needs of our clients:
- Standard (US undergraduate schools)
- Conservative (US faith-based schools)
- Nontraditional (US community colleges and graduate schools)
- Canadian (Canadian undergraduate schools)
- Historically black US schools
- Women’s conservative US schools (and others)
SH101 content is based in a social justice perspective that honors diversity of race, ethnicity, age, religion, socioeconomics, sexuality, gender, disability, body type, academic level, family circumstances, geography, and access to supports. Our editorial and design policies prioritize diversity in the students and experts we feature in our content. Our writers work from detailed assignment outlines that include guidelines on diversity.
Students have major roles in our content creation. Our Student Advisory Board (actually three boards involving Standard, Nontraditional, and Canadian students) is recruited with diversity as a high priority. These students are involved in generating topic ideas, previewing and improving our draft content, and creating certain content elements (e.g., videos and reviews). We are introducing new ways of highlighting students’ involvement in content development (e.g., a student reporter internship).
Choosing article topics that appeal to diverse audiences
We have the dual goals of creating inclusive content while also speaking to our specific student and client audiences. We routinely survey students (sometimes by subpopulation) for their opinions on the most effective and useful ways to address certain upcoming themes (e.g., disability and sexuality). In addition, we gather students’ feedback on our current and recent coverage.
Our common themes have broad appeal: fitness, nutrition, time management, stress management, etc. The challenge is content dedicated to certain student populations, e.g., students with disabilities, and students’ varying racial and ethnic experiences. We are exploring ways to more directly address specific student communities while keeping their peers engaged—for example, by applying a bystander-interventionist/how-to-be-an-ally approach.
Some (mostly upcoming) examples:
- Our September 2015 issue includes a feature on first-generation students’ experiences, based on interviews with students. Much of the content has relevance to any student. The piece is designed, also, to help establish an understanding and supportive community inclusive of varying backgrounds. The equivalent feature in the nontraditional edition addresses first-generation students (at community colleges) and international students (at graduate schools).
- Our October 2015 issue includes a feature on spirituality as a source of resilience in college. In our surveys, we asked students how they understood spirituality, and the resulting piece represents a broad range of traditions, practices, and approaches. This includes nature, community, support groups, etc., in addition to several religions.
- Our December 2015 issue includes a feature on the fluidity of sexual identity. It aims to address students’ personal experiences while also helping them understand and respect their peers’ differing stories.
- Our sexual assault/sexual culture coverage in general: e.g., our February 2015 visual-based feature on sexual consent represented same-sex relationships, disabled people, age differences, etc. Our November 2015 issue includes a feature on supporting male survivors of sexual assault. Our May 2016 issue will include a feature on how sexual assault affects the LGBTQ student community.
Best practices to ensure inclusive language
This is a rapidly evolving issue and an ongoing discussion at SH101.We are very conscious of the need to avoid language that perpetuates stigma around race, ethnicity, body type, emotional health, and disability. Some examples:
- Sexuality and gender: We use featured students’ and experts’ preferred terms and pronouns. We try to avoid the male-female gender binary (last year we faced our grammatical demons and switched from “he or she” to the singular “they”).
- Disability: We acknowledge the tension around person-first vs. identity-first language. We avoid the flip use of formerly clinical language (e.g., “crazy”) and conflict-based metaphors (e.g., “the battle against depression”).
Visual diversity is among our highest design priorities. Our design and editorial teams work closely on this. Our images reflect diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and body type. For example, we include images of same-sex couples fairly broadly, not only in features on sexuality. In certain editions with narrower audiences, the images more closely represent that student population.
Questions, comments, concerns…? We want to hear from you.
Thanks for reading.
Lucy Berrington, MS
Editor Student Health 101 (college editions)