Health experts debunk myths

“What is one of the four fluids that can transmit HIV?” Rob Pompa, a licensed clinical social worker of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, asked many students who visited his vendor table at the annual KU Health and Wellness Expo.
To Pompa’s dismay, many students incorrectly answered with “saliva,” just one of the common myths in regards to sexual activity. Many other wellness vendors were also provided with inaccurate information that students believed true.
On Tuesday, March 12, an estimate of a 1,000 students attended KU’s annual Health and Wellness Expo to further their education on health-related topics, receive free health tests and interact with wellness experts.
KU hosted more than 30 health organizations of the Berks, Lehigh and Kutztown region in the McFarland Student Union Building’s Multipurpose Room.
Northeast Pennsylvania Lion’s Eye Bank and WISE Physical Therapy were two of the newest vendors to the Expo family. In addition to many others, returning organizations were St. Joseph Medical Center, the Council on Chemical Abuse, Aramark and KU’s Women Center.
According to Francis Cortez-Funk, Director of KU Health Promotion Services, the goal of the expo was to contribute to campus wellness, in addition to giving students the opportunity to learn interactive skills with vendors.
“Individual health and wellness practices are very helpful for [students’] academic and higher education success; they have to feel well to do well,” sated Cortez-Funk. “Students must make wise choices while they’re here, because one of the biggest investments they can make is in themselves.”
Participants were given the opportunity to take free blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, HIV testing and strength assessments.
Representatives of the Council on Chemical Abuse informed students about the effects of college gambling and drug and alcohol abuse.
“Gambling is very socially acceptable, almost not even a problem, and most students I talk to don’t realize that Pennsylvania is number two in gambling only behind Nevada,” said Michael Reese, the problem-gambling coordinator of the Council on Chemical Abuse. “It’s a major industry, and it’s here to stay.”
In Pennsylvania alone, there are over a dozen casinos—Bensalem, Pittsburg, Mount Pocono, Philadelphia, etc.—in which direct gambling tax revenue tops $1.6 billion. Furthermore, New Jersey has recently passed legislation that legalized online gambling for residents of the state, making gambling more accessible to young adults.
“The number shows that four percent of the population has a problem, so if you’re under 25, double that. Then add on alcohol or drugs, and you double that number again,” said Reese.
Allison Sweigart, KU alumni and prevention specialist for the Council on Chemical Abuse, also warned students of potential harm from drugs and alcohol abuse.
“Addiction can not only ruin the person’s life but also other people around them. It’s a tragic disease, and it’s important to be educated, because we all know someone who has a problem and we can help them,” said Sweigart.
Prescription drug abuse, underage drinking, alcohol consumption abuse and the use of marijuana are major health issues for young adults across the United States. However, many are undereducated about their effects.
“The most frequent question students ask is if marijuana is harmful, and a lot are surprised to learn that it has the same effects as smoking,” said Sweigart. “Marijuana increases the chance of lung cancer and upper respiratory dilemmas, and also changes the structure of your brain.”
In addition, potential alcohol or drug charges can affect a student’s degree, such as accounting, nursing, education, psychology and social work.
“Young adults are our future. Thirty years from now, I’ll be dead. But in those thirty years, the students in this room will be the doctors, lawyers, mayors and presidents,” said Reese. “So they need resources that all of the vendors have to make good choices because they’re going to lead the world.”

By Marianella Orlando

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