Our Notable Achievements

Throughout the years, ACHA as an organization has worked to advance the health and wellness needs of college students and support the work of college health and wellness professionals around the world. Below are some of our notable achievements throughout the years that have helped to create the college health and wellness field as a strong, impactful force for the well-being of our students.

Detailed Timeline of ACHA and College Health in America

Formation of a National Organization for College Health Professionals

In 1920, interest developed in forming a national organization after college health programs had developed on numerous campuses throughout the country. An association dedicated to the field of college health was formed, called the American Student Health Association (ASHA). In 1948, the name of the association was changed to the American College Health Association (ACHA) to avoid confusion with the American School Health Association (ASHA).

First College Health Meeting

The first ASHA Annual Meeting took place in Chicago on December 31, 1920 and was held in conjunction with other associations' meetings. In 1938, the first independent annual meeting took place.

Establishment of a National Office to Support the Association’s Work

In 1957, Dr. Carl R. Wise, the president of ACHA at the time, received an anonymous gift that helped to establish a national office. In 1958, Dr. Ruth Boynton became the first person working only for the association. In 1968, the national office moved to Evanston, Illinois, where for the first time it existed independent of a member institution.

In 1979, since many members felt that there would be a growing relationship between ACHA and the federal government, the national office moved its headquarters from Evanston, Illinois, to Rockville, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.

Sections Created to Advance the Work of Different Disciplines

In 1957, eight sections representing different disciplines in college health were created within the association. That number has grown to nice and includes a section for students/consumers.

First Journal Specifically for College Health

In 1958, Student Medicine became the official journal of the association. Four years later, the rights were transferred to ACHA and the name was changed to the Journal of the American College Health Association and later became the Journal of the American College Health, published by Taylor and Francis.

Foundation Created to Support College Health

In 1989, The ACHA Board of Directors established the Foundation for Health in Higher Education (now the American College Health Foundation), a non-profit agency designed to attract funding to benefit the college health profession.

National Survey to Measure the State of College Students’ Health

In 2000, ACHA launched the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), the first comprehensive population-level health status assessment tool for college students. The ACHA-NCHA quickly emerged as a vital and uniquely useful tool for tracking changes in health trends, enabling ACHA and institutions of higher education to identify factors affecting academic performance and respond to questions and concerns about the health of the nation's students. More than 800,000 students at over 540 institutions have participated in the survey to date and contributed to a rich data set on college students’ health factors.

Now nearly 2 million students at 960 colleges and universities have been surveyed. In fall 2019, a new version of the survey was implemented and now includes several improvements that allow campuses to measure students' health and well-being even better than before.

HIV and AIDS Prevention on Campus

ACHA has long been at the forefront of prevention of HIV in college students. The organization's AIDS Task Force was established in 1984, and the CDC provided ACHA with its first grant in support of HIV/AIDS research and education efforts in 1986. Other grants soon followed, and one of them funded the HIV/AIDS Seroprevalence Study that concluded in 1991. This ground-breaking study provided the first statistics on the HIV seroprevalence rate in college students and gained nationwide attention for ACHA when the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. During this time, ACHA was awarded 2 grants from the National AIDS Program Office (NAPO) via the Office of Minority Health. The grants were used to develop HIV/AIDS programming tailored specifically to the needs of students of color.

Other cooperative agreements between the CDC and ACHA helped to prevent the spread of HIV on college campuses. The College Students in High-Risk Situations Project from 1997 to 2004 not only helped to prevent HIV infections at postsecondary institutions, but also addressed other priority health problems among college students. The Health in Higher Education—National System to Prevent HIV Infection in Postsecondary Students was another successful cooperative agreement (1995–2000) between ACHA and the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health. In partnership with NASPA, this agreement empowered college and university students to change unhealthy behaviors putting them at risk for HIV infection. ACHA was also awarded a new 5-year cooperative agreement in October 2000, Building Healthy Campus Communities, to address risky behaviors in college students that result in HIV infections, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancies.

Mostly recently, ACHA published guidelines on HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to provide campuses with a roadmap in providing this life-saving medication and to assist with front line implementation.

Collection of Sexual Health Services Data

Over the years, the ACHA Pap and STI Test Survey (now known as the Sexual Health Services Survey) has served as an important benchmarking tool and as a means to assess education outreach efforts.

The ACHA Task Force on Human Papillomavirus expanded the Pap Test Survey throughout the 1990s, adding data on other sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs) to the survey in 1997. Almost 30 years since its inception, the survey continues to collect important data about gynecological services, STI detection and treatment, and contraception services/pregnancy testing.

Monitoring the H1N1 Pandemic on Campus

In collaboration with the CDC, ACHA launched its Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance Project in response to the H1N1 pandemic of 2009–2010. Some 327 member institutions agreed to participate, encompassing a population of 2 to 3 million students on campuses nationwide. The survey was later expanded to include questions to track H1N1 vaccine availability and uptake. The data were invaluable to public health officials around the country and was prominently featured by numerous media outlets.

Helping Campus Gauge Patient Satisfaction

In 2008, The ACHA-Patient Satisfaction Assessment Service was created. This service offers a standardized patient satisfaction assessment to assist administrators in benchmarking their performance against other college health services across the country.

Launching a Way to Assess Faculty and Staff Well-Being

Modeled after the ACHA-NCHA, the ACHA-National Faculty and Staff Wellness Assessment launched in 2018 and is the first benchmarked survey of its kind, designed specifically for faculty, staff, and graduate student employees working on college and university campuses. Because meeting the needs of faculty and staff is a critical component of building a healthy campus community, this survey assists schools in determining which employee wellness programs and services are needed and identifying the most common health and behavior risks affecting employees' performance and productivity.

Playing a National Role in Immunization Practices

In 2003, ACHA also became a liaison member organization on the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, providing the college health community with a stronger voice in determining immunization policies that directly impact college students.

Advocating for Student Health Insurance

Among the ACHA's highest priorities is advocating on behalf of high-quality and affordable student health insurance plans. In 2009, as the government renewed its focus on health care reform, ACHA committed itself to monitoring the development of health care reform legislation and providing input into legislative policy development related to student health insurance. The association cultivated a collaborative relationship with governmental affairs and public policy staff from the American Council on Education, Association of American Universities, and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. It also leveraged its retainer relationship with a legislative consulting firm to address shared college health concerns.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (collectively referred to as health care reform legislation) were signed into law in March 2010. ACHA's advocacy efforts were largely successful in getting a “rule of construction” into the legislation expressing congressional intent to preserve student health insurance plans in the health insurance marketplace. During this process, ACHA's unprecedented access to high-level government officials has been invaluable in further clarifying the legislation's provisions related to student health insurance coverage.

Providing a Certification for College Health and Wellness Profession

In 2018, ACHA instituted a new certification program, allowing college health and wellness professionals to pursue a robust series of courses leading to a certification—the College Health and Wellness Professional (CHWP) certification, a series of core courses and elective opportunities uniquely focused on leadership and management in the college wellness arena.

Social Justice to Address Diminished Health Outcomes

As a principal component of the core values of our association, ACHA fully embraces social justice, human dignity, and respect for all. We recognize that denial of social justice can contribute to diminished health outcomes and quality of life. Accordingly, the association has adopted organizational positions with regard to matters of equality and human rights.

Responding to Sexual Violence as a Serious Public Health Issue

Effective prevention programming and response to sexual and relationship violence requires university-wide commitment to trauma-informed practice and to gender-inclusive and culturally-relevant victim/survivor-centered care and programming, both within the campus and with community partners. ACHA published it 2018 toolkit, Addressing Sexual and Relationship Violence: A Trauma-Informed Approach, to enhance campus effort to reduce and respond to sexual and relationship violence. Developed by ACHA’s Creating Guidance for Addressing Sexual Assault Task Force, the toolkit describes a public health model of trauma-informed care and provides guidance on engaging all campus constituents in creating a trauma-informed campus. The toolkit is a comprehensive, meaningful resource for institutions of higher education to utilize when developing prevention programming as well as response to incidents of sexual violence experienced by members of the campus community.

Beginning New Conversations on the Most Important College Health and Wellness Issues

In 2017, ACHA hosted its inaugural Leadership and Innovations Summit, bringing together student health and wellness professionals, higher education officials, and policy leaders to discuss the most pressing issues affecting the well-being of campus communities and to share innovative, effective strategies to deal with these issues. The 2017 summit focused on addressing the rising mental health demands of our nation’s students. The 2018 summit took a deep dive into two topics, building a culture well-being on campus and address students’ food and housing insecurity. The 2019 summit looked at key trends and innovations being applied today to build campus cultures based on well-being and new strategies being utilized to solve key challenges in college mental health.

Portions of this content have been excepted from History of the American College Health Association, Rachel Mack, Journal of American College Health, Vol. 59, Issue 6, June/July 2011.