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Cleared for Take Off

Stack of UCEAP and Northwestern health clearance forms
Stack of UCEAP and Northwestern health clearance forms

UCEAP’s and Northwestern’s processes for collecting study abroad participant health clearance information emphasize confidentiality, privacy, and trust.

Many study abroad programs are moving to an online application system which also means collecting confidential or sensitive disability and health history information.

University of California’s System Education Abroad Program has sent more than 86,000 students abroad and operates in more than 42 countries so they know a thing or two about processing information. Their process which is online or in person,  depending on the campus, starts with a student’s self-disclosure on a confidential health history form shared with a clinician only, followed by a health clearance form completed by the clinician. Only information about absolutely necessary disability-related accommodations are communicated to ‘need to know staff’ after that point. Most advisors and faculty are simply informed about whether or not the student is cleared for participation.

Northwestern University’s process is similar, but focuses on student self-assessment followed by a health clearance for students who respond affirmatively to some questions about pre-existing conditions. Their online application system has resulted in more students self-reporting and sharing more detailed information because of the ease of online forms and safeguards built into the system to protect privacy of information compared to a hard copy form.

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