Colleges Could Do More for Students With Chronic Illnesses

Only half of campus clinics feel they can handle diabetes care; many don't ID students with needs

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MONDAY, Oct. 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many college health centers may lack the resources to fully care for students with chronic health conditions, according to new research published online Oct. 27 in Pediatrics.

Diana Lemly, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues based their findings on surveys of medical directors at 153 colleges across the United States -- public and private, large and small.

The researchers found that, overall, 83 percent said their center could care for students with persistent asthma, and 69 percent said they could help students with depression who were requesting therapy. Just over half (51 percent) said they could care for students with type 1 diabetes. When the medical directors were asked how the colleges reached out to students, 42 percent said their center had no system for identifying incoming students with chronic illnesses. And 24 percent said they contacted students to make a first-time appointment -- which was more common at small, private colleges.

"New students are often quite far from home -- about 90 miles, on average," Lemly told HealthDay. She added that it's too much to expect an 18-year-old just adapting to college to also find a doctor in an unfamiliar city -- one who takes their parents' insurance, and can offer a prompt appointment. "That's almost impossible," she said.

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