New online health portal offers support to college students

Sarah Sumadi

A sort of online hybrid of Searle Hall and Facebook, RevolutionHealth.com’s new College Health Center combines professional medical information with discussion forums that allow students to share their health issues with peers.

Launched earlier this month, the site features guides to mental and sexual health as well as information on stress management, addiction and nutrition. More than 100 assessments and calculators allow students to determine their blood-alcohol level, their approximate risk for serious diseases such as diabetes and to track weight loss over time.

Visitors can submit a combination of symptoms into the “symptom checker” to find out what illnesses they might be suffering from. Access to the site is free, although registration is required for some tools. Users can also sign up for a premium account, a paid membership that allows access to health specialists by phone.

Surfing the site doesn’t replace a doctor’s visit, but the content is written and reviewed by sources such as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Publications.

AOL Founder Steve Case said he launched Revolution Health in April after constantly struggling with the health care system as a father of five.

“It’s easier to get a cup of coffee on a Sunday than to find out if your kid has an ear infection,” Case said in a conference call. “We wanted to have one trusted resource that can answer questions about personal health, mental health and relationships.”

The site also has a college mental health fair with 12 virtual informational booths from nonprofit agencies that raise awareness about topics such as suicide, depression and eating disorders. For each visitor who clicks on their booth, Revolution Health will make a $.25 donation to that organization up to $10,000. The booths will also offer information and expert advice on various mental health issues, as well as where to get confidential care.

The anonymity Revolution Health offers is what will attract students, especially when they are seeking advice about sensitive problems including STDs or depression, Case said.

SESP freshman Sarah Thomas said she has not used Revolution Health but sees the appeal in using a Web site to find advice for medical issues.

“There was something like that in middle school, and I remember using it then,” Thomas said. “They gave us the Web site because everyone was going through puberty. I can see myself using something like that again here.”

Case timed the site’s launch to coincide with the beginning of the school year, often the most stressful time in a college year.

“College students often experience significant adjustment issues once they are away from home without their normal support structures,” said psychiatrist and site contributor Edward Hallowell in a press release. “Students … hold back on getting help because they have no idea of how simple, practical and effective that help can be.”

DAILY reporter Elise Foley contributed to this article.

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