At the outset, National Health Corps Chicago prepped the first couple of weeks brimming with trainings and presentations on a plethora of public health topics. A dynamic, interdisciplinary field like public health often has overlap with practically every field one can imagine. I had no set expectations going into this year of service but found it exciting to continue learning even after graduation. With representatives from agencies covering a range of information, we as new members were well-equipped with information to bring back to serve at our clinics. These trainings and activities included information on opioid use prevention to adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed care, intimate partner violence, motivational interviewing, contraception methods, and CPR, among many others. Because these trainings covered many angles of healthcare, I believe we are fully prepared to facilitate 1:1 nutrition counseling sessions and educate students on sexual health.
Upon learning about the services that the school-based health centers provide, I discovered the importance of buy-in from school administration in order to keep the system of the clinic running seamlessly. Buy-in is essentially when school administration has an understanding that students who have better health outcomes can do better in school, and students that are achieving in school with support and resources have healthy outcomes. This model demonstrates that prime health and success in school are nearly codependent on each other. Therefore, when both administration and the health clinic are on the same page, they can collaborate and work together towards those healthy and successful student outcomes. With both Kilmer Elementary and Sullivan High School on a race to getting their students to being 100% compliant with the school health code, the clinic team is regularly reaching out to families and students to sign health consent forms, turn in immunization records and turn in physical forms. Fortunately, the school-based health centers can also provide these services to kids who are not compliant, scheduling appointments during the school day by mitigating barriers like time and access.
With all these services at these students’ fingertips, my impression about the current state of health within my host site community is that these students should be well taken care of. However, as I am getting referrals for my counseling sessions and having conversations with P.E. teachers about the sexual health curriculum, I realize that the entire community needs an uplift. During my counseling sessions, I have noticed the continuous pattern of students skipping breakfast and lunch or having low self-esteem when it comes to body image. Fortunately, I think that this needs a simple solution. These students need a lot more support and encouragement in regards to health behavior change, along with being informed on what risk factors lead to chronic and communicative diseases. Galvanized by this opportunity to step in and ameliorate the state of health of the community, I am looking forward to also being an accountability partner and advocate where it is needed most. With clinics regularly providing preventative care through updated health physicals and immunization records and my role to target and mitigate unhealthy behaviors early in these students’ lives, I am hopeful that the community’s state of health will be improved over the course of the service year.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2019-20 member Alison Wong.
Alison is a Health Educator at Heartland Health Center - Kilmer/Sullivan.