Barreira Delays Releasing Results of Harvard College-Wide Health Survey


Director of Harvard University Health Services Paul J. Barreira has no immediate plans to publish the results of a health survey sent to all undergraduates last spring, saying he wants to release the data in a manner that engages Harvard students.

HUHS emailed a survey to all undergraduates last semester — something it does every other year — asking students to anonymously answer questions on topics ranging from alcohol consumption to drug usage to mental health. The survey closed on March 9.

Though he said the data has already been analyzed by HUHS staff and is ready for public presentation, Barreira said he does not believe it is useful to simply share the results without making sure undergraduates seriously consider the data.

“It’s not locked away data that can’t be shared,” Barreira said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s a question of what’s the right forums and groups to share the data and talk about how we want to respond to the data.”


Barreira said he plans to hold interactive forums that will include presentations and conversations meant to help students interpret the survey result data. He said he has yet to determine a timeline for these conversations.

“If we could do something that would really engage a lot of students in some creative conversations, it could only benefit the students,” Barreira said.

He drew a comparison to a survey that HUHS recently sent to graduate students in the Economics Department that helped unearth the reality of student learning environments at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

During the 2016–2017 academic year, HUHS and a group of Economics Ph.D. candidates worked together to develop a mental health survey designed to assess levels of student stress. Barreira said this experience led him to realize how powerful it can be when students are involved in survey generation and analysis. 

So far, though, HUHS not replicated this kind of survey for undergraduates. Barreira said it is often easier to class and understand issues — like stress factors — when they are experienced by a homogeneous student body like Economics Ph.D. students.

“In graduate school, it’s really simple,” Barreira said. “They all live in their graduate department. They live and die for their departments.”

HUHS offered College students a $5 J.P. Licks gift card as a reward for completing the optional survey, an amount redeemable for roughly one scoop of ice cream.

—Staff writer Ahab Chopra can be reached at

—Staff writer Ashley M. Cooper can be reached at


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