As I reflect on my service year so far, I find myself thinking about what I’ve accomplished as I’m reaching the halfway point. I currently serve at Children’s Hospital as a Health & Prevention Outreach Coordinator in their Community Health Department. I had a broad overview of the type of service I would be doing in the role, but I didn’t realize how valuable making connections in the community would be.
I think one of the most eye opening experience for me is coming back to a city I grew up so close to and realizing the stark health disparities that exist in so many of these communities. When I visit after school sites that I work with I hear about a lack of trauma-informed care, food insecurity when kids go home on weekends to their families, and a lack of knowledge about free and low cost health resources in the Pittsburgh area. Being able to listen about barriers to care, community history, and what sites want to get out of a partnership with Children’s Hospital has made me reflect on our healthcare system and my role as a National Health Corps member. I didn’t realize until recently how valuable our roles are in making connections that otherwise would not have been made. What makes it even more rewarding is the educational component of these connections. My team puts on a health education presentation called the “Sugar Show,” where we teach kids about the dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages. Our work in helping inform kids and families about making healthier drink choices is small yet impactful in preventing future health issues. We recently did a Sugar Show at a site we visit on a regular basis. When we returned the next week for a different activity, one of the girls said how she had her mom buy seltzer instead of soda because of what she learned. Although moments like these don’t happen every time and for some kids, it might just be another presentation, it made me reflect on why I’m doing this work and how I do have the ability to empower kids to make healthier choices.
Although I still don’t know what I’ll be doing post-NHC, I think about how lucky I am to do impactful community-based work that I never would have envisioned myself doing a few years ago. I never thought I’d want to work in schools, and now doing health presentations in schools is one of my favorite parts of my position. That’s the beauty of National Health Corps- I’ve surprised myself in learning what I want in a career, don’t want, and areas I want to continue pursuing work in. My year of service is giving me the skills necessary to ignite change on a larger scale. NHC has pushed me professionally, personally, and challenged me to think critically about cultural humility when working in communities I don’t belong to. I’m excited to make the most of my time serving and see what the future holds!
This post was written by NHC member Jenny Park
Jenny serves at the UPMC Children's Hospital Department of Communtiy Health as a Health and prevention Outreach Coordinator