The Wellness Resource Center's Health Research

Since 2002, the health behaviors and needs of students have been assessed each spring at VCU using the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment. Since 2008, the online version of this standardized instrument has been emailed to approximately 5,000 students randomly selected from the Registrar’s enrollment lists, which includes freshmen through graduate students. Response rates typically are between 30 - 37% and sample sizes typically range between 1,400 and 1,800. Prior to 2008, pen and pencil versions were used in randomly-selected classrooms. Each year, The Well obtains permission from the VCU Institutional Review Board to continue this project. 

Description of Research Instrument

VCU uses the American College Health Association's-National College Health Assessment which collects data about college students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions. This tool was developed by an interdisciplinary team of college health professionals.

More than 825,000 students at 550+ colleges and universities across the country have already taken the survey. This 65 item online instrument covers a wide variety of health topics pertinent to the success of college students:

  • Health education, personal safety, violence, relationship issues
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use
  • Sexual health and contraception
  • Weight, nutrition, and exercise
  • General health behaviors – immunizations, routine exams, sleep
  • Mental health and stress
  • Impediments to academic success
  • Demographic variables including- work hours, volunteer hours, participation in campus groups etc.

The Well is willing to share findings with interested students, staff and faculty. Please invite us to your class or group. If you are writing a paper or doing research, please email us the following form with a short explanation of your interests (

Social Norms Marketing Campaign

The National College Health Assessment allows us to support the strategic mission of VCU and to enhance our ability to support student retention and success. The Well uses a data driven, evidence based approach to health education. Since 2002, we have been funded by the National Social Norms Institute to implement a campus-wide social norms marketing campaign to reduce high risk drinking and address the misperception that all college students drink to excess. Exposure to The Well’s Stall Seat Journal is high with 86.3% of VCU students seeing at least one poster and over half (58.3%) seeing posters 5 or more times (VCU NCHA data, spring 2011).

National research shows that one of the primary variables impacting college students’ decisions to drink alcohol is their misperception of how much and how often their peers drink. TOnce again this year, The Well, through its social norms interventions, The Well has demonstrated that VCU students have healthier perceptions than students at the national level.

Spring 2012 VCU NCHA data show that the top academic impediments are unrelated to alcohol use, with 5.0% of undergraduate students and 0.7% of graduate students reporting that their alcohol use resulted in a lower grade on an assignment, an incomplete or dropped course, or significant disruption on a thesis, research, or dissertation. 

Within the last 12 months, have any of the following affected your academic performance?

(received a lower grade on an exam or important project, received a lower grade in the course, received an incomplete or dropped the course, significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work) National College Health Assessment, 2012. VCU random sample, n=1433 

In addition, the spring 2011 national reference group NCHA data (n=105,781) were compared to the VCU spring 2011 NCHA data (n=1,847). Alcohol consumption rates of VCU students are lower than the national rates. In fact, 83.8% of VCU students drank 0-4 alcohol drinks in a sitting during the last two weeks, as compared to 65.9% at the national level.

Awards and Publications

Because of the creative and data-driven interventions conducted by the Well, VCU has received national recognition and has been twice designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Model Program for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention.” In 2005, The Well was awarded $75,825 to create, evaluate and disseminate findings about alcohol and drug prevention using audience response technology (“clickers”). In 2008, the Well received an award for $129,705 to continue reducing high risk drinking on campus. The 2008 -2010 Model Program Aaward focused on an environmental campus alcohol assessment and a randomized intervention-comparison group study to examine the effect of adding audience response technology to traditional alcohol education classes for judicially sanctioned students. Clicker-enhanced brief live interactive normative group (BLING) sessions during Welcome Week were employed to reduce high-risk drinking among first year college students. This article was published in January 2010 in College Health in Action. During the same year, another article was accepted for publication in the Journal of American College Health on the impact of clickers on the effectiveness of social norms campaigns. In addition, The Well was also awarded the 2010 Best Practices in College Health Award by the American College Health Association for the Clicker Enhanced Social Norms Marketing Campaign from the American College Health Association.


Hancock, L., Vatalaro Hill, K. and Barber, J. (2010). Using audience response technology in brief live interactive normative group (BLING) sessions to reduce high-risk drinking in first year college students. College Health in Action, 49. 

Killos, L.F, Hancock, L.C., Wattenmaker McGann, A. and Keller, A.E. (2010). Do “Clicker” Educational Sessions Enhance the Effectiveness of a Social Norms Marketing Campaign. Journal of American College Health, 59, :3, 228-231.


Contact Us

815 S. Cathedral Place
Richmond, VA 23220

Phone: (804) VCU-WELL (828-9355)
Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Friday, 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.


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