Melinda's Project: Developing a Health Information File of Internet Resources

Introduction by Carol Mulvihill

Melinda Moz, a graduate student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is the Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Part of her assistantship is devoted to Health Services, and as a part of that experience, we developed a special project which would benefit the Student Health Service while providing Melinda with an interesting and developmental learning experience. It has been a win-win situation from day-one!

The old health information file in the Student Health Service consisted of approximately forty or 50 topics in a wide variety of formats ranging from pamphlets, faded newspaper and magazine articles, and handouts from conferences. Much of the information had become archaic, as it had been collected over the the course of the 23 years I have spent here as the Director of the Student Health Service. But before discarding the old materials, I wanted to have a newer and better resource file in place.

I was becoming familiar with numerous health information files on the www which were particularly pertinent to college health, and on isolated occasions, I had printed out particular files to give to a student as an information sheet. Sometimes I would give them internet addresses also, so they could do their own research on a health problem topic. Then I got the vision for a project: We would develop a resource file of health information obtained from the World Wide Web, so that if a student came in, I would have handy information already printed in a file to share with them, without waiting for Netscape to search or download information. Most of the files we would use from the web were public domain and very few were copyrighted, so the information would lend itself nicely to the project. I would have loved to have done this research myself, but I knew I could not devote the time to it during the busy academic year. I found that empowering Melinda to carry out this project was a very rewarding experience for both of us.

I took Melinda to the CALC (computer aided learning center) and showed her how to use Netscape and print files, and I introduced her to College Health 2000 at This website has links to 160 college health services, many of which have health information menus.

Melinda perused the various student health information web pages and began to develop a topic list. We had meetings periodically to refine and expand the topic list and currently have more than sixty topics, with at least two or three files per topic. She spent a lot of time on the information super-highway, reading and browsing files, and printing the files she selected. Her perspective was important to me because she would determine what was interesting, understandable, useful, and appealing from a student point of view.

I ordered new yellow Pendaflex file folders, and Carla, our work-study student, typed the file labels. Presto! We had the framework of our "alphabetical-by-topic" Health Information File!

Week by week, the size of the file grew as new resources were found, printed and placed in the new file by Melinda. It didn't take long before the information was being utilized in ways we hadn't even anticipated at the onset of the project.

Melinda will tell you about that. Her story follows.

Developing a Health Information File of Internet Resources

By Melinda Moz, Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

When Carol Mulvihill, the Director of Health Services, first came to me about starting a health educational file of internet resources, I was excited and nervous at the same time. It sounded like an interesting project, but I had never been on the internet before and I wasn't quite sure how it would work out. I found out very quickly that it was easy to "surf the Web" and I ended up having a lot of fun looking up information. If I had to think about one of the most valuable aspects of this project I would have to say that it helped me get over my fear of the internet.

If you had said to me four months ago that I would spend approximately 50 hours finding information on the world wide web and enjoying it, I probably would have said that you were crazy. I have never been a person who is interested in computers. Instead, I use them as a modern typewriter, basically turning them on to type out a paper. What I found through this project is that I enjoy spending time on the computer. As a matter of fact, I became a little bit addicted to it. At one point I was working on the project for two to three hours a day. At this point I have spent cumulatively about 50 hours developing a topic list, accumulating health information, printing files, and developing a resource list of good college health website addresses. I consider this project ongoing and I'm looking forward to updating it next year as well. I never knew how much information there was on the internet before I started spending so much time playing around on it.

It is amazing to me what you can find and how many different applications there are for the information. Since I've been doing this research for Carol I have found other ways that the information can be used. One of the first instances happened when I had been working on the project for about a month. I had a Resident Assistant come to me and ask me if I had any information on eating disorders. I already had an address list for this topic since it was one of the topics I was researching for Carol. I gave her the addresses and she later told me that the information was really helpful.

I've also started printing information for Resident Assistant training for Fall Term. The Director of Housing is preparing a new training manual, and some of the information that I have acquired for the health information file will be included in the manual. For instance, information on suicide prevention, eating disorders, and dealing with depression will be included. I have also received some good ideas for resources for peer education from the internet which I plan to use with a peer education/drama group next year. By looking to see what information is out there you not only inform yourself, but you can help others receive the information they need in a timely way.

I feel that I have been very fortunate to be a part of this project. I now know that I can navigate the internet and I have learned a variety of interesting tidbits of health information in the process. I will continue to maintain and update the health information files throughout the completion of my assistantship at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

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