UK Students Invited to Share COVID-19 Experiences

Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto
Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 19, 2021) — The Wellness, Health & You (WHY) program invites University of Kentucky students to share COVID-19 experiences in a brief, confidential survey. WHY is a long-term research program that uses annual surveys to learn about how different life experiences affect health and well-being.

“The WHY research initiative is committed to serving Kentuckians by gathering data about how COVID-19 has affected their lives in a multitude of facets,” said Hannah Bowman, a UK College of Nursing student who serves as a student ambassador for WHY.

Anyone 18 and up is invited to join WHY and take the first COVID-19 survey of 2021. WHY questionnaires are completely confidential. In addition to the COVID-19 survey, WHY also has surveys that focus on the health of people of color and of queer individuals. Joining WHY is, and always will be, completely free.

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The first two rounds of COVID-19 WHY surveys — one was April to June and the second October to December 2020 — reveal changes in Kentuckian’s COVID-19 prevention behaviors and attitudes about vaccination over the first year of the pandemic. More than 1,500 people completed the first two WHY surveys designed to understand how Kentuckians are responding to the pandemic.

The overwhelming majority of respondents to the first two surveys (more than 90%) indicated that they had used personal protection behaviors in the past week, and while the practice of social distancing increased over the year, it hovered around 50%. Kentuckians most likely to use personal protection and social distancing measures were inspired by having someone close to them at significant health risk if they got COVID-19.

The second WHY COVID-19 survey, launched mid-October 2020, asked about willingness to be vaccinated against the disease. While the majority of Kentuckians were considering vaccination, 19% had no intention of receiving the vaccine. Those with no intention of being vaccinated were less likely to use social distancing measures.

“This pandemic brings home the truth that we are all in this together. What I do impacts my family, friends and neighbors,” said  WHY Director Ann Coker. “WHY surveys are so important to help us understand what Kentuckians are thinking and doing to prevent COVID-19. For example, understanding reasons why some Kentuckians are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine helps public health and medical workers create public health messaging especially addressing their concerns.”

WHY’s quarterly COVID-19 survey embodies the program’s mission to understand how different life experiences affect the health and well-being of Kentuckians. The WHY research project consists of a series of confidential health and life surveys that WHY “members” complete each year. This helps researchers learn more about the interplay between what happens in our life and our health outcomes.

In return, WHY members receive health promotion information and opportunities to participate in other health research. The WHY research team also shares research findings with the members about the two recent COVID-19 surveys.

“WHY exists to better understand exactly how life experiences affect health. This mission alone stresses how important WHY research is in the midst of the pandemic,” said Lyndsey Justice, another UK College of Nursing student and WHY ambassador. “It is absolutely crucial that data is collected, analyzed and reported efficiently in order to make advances in medicine now and so that as clinicians we are prepared for serving patients in future crises.”

The Wellness, Health & You (WHY) program is part of the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, whose mission is to accelerate discoveries that improve health, particularly in Kentucky and Appalachia.

Researchers who would like to discuss partnering with WHY can contact WHY Project Manager Katie Schill by emailing katie.schill@uky.edu.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.