Member Tripura shares her experience switching gears with COVID-19
As a Health Educator with the Respiratory Health Association (RHA), I provide Chicago-area schools with asthma management programs that aim to educate participants on how to manage asthma and help those living with the disease achieve optimal lung function. Learning how to educate students on how to use a spacer properly, how to identify asthma warning signs, and how to manage triggers in the environment, has also shown me the vital role of health education in preventative healthcare. However, as I began my service term in the midst of the pandemic, my role as a health educator faced a major challenge.
After spending weeks training with the RHA team, I was ready to present and began my outreach to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). However, I quickly began to realize that schools were struggling to adjust to the consequences of the pandemic and were extremely overwhelmed with the transition to a virtual format. This meant that we were not able to secure many presentations for the year. This was when I realized that COVID-19 had a greater impact on the functioning of the community than I ever imagined. To not be able to provide basic disease prevention education to vulnerable students was disheartening. As we entered the second part of the service year, the team decided that it was best to switch gears and work on something that would benefit the community in another way. We brainstormed. As a community health organization, what could be most helpful and accessible for our respiratory health patients? Fact sheets.
I began to identify topics and designed fact sheets that addressed the important questions and concerns from the patients we serve at RHA. Our fact sheet topics included: General Vaccine Information, Transmission Risks for Multigenerational Families, Lung Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and COVID-19 Concerns, and Vaccine Efficacy and Hesitancy. This was a great opportunity to be present for the community and focus on the current pandemic. The research I conducted not only kept me extremely informed on COVID-19 risks and regulations, but it also provided a different avenue in which I could support our patients. Through this project, I was able to identify, assess, and report on COVID-19-related respiratory health risks.
In an additional project, our team developed scripts relating to asthma medication technique, asthma warning signs, asthma irritants and allergens so that we could create short informative videos to be accessed on the RHA website. This was another way we prioritized accessibility and the safety of our RHA patients, by providing virtual and interactive options to access quality information.
Although I wasn’t able to go forward with our asthma presentations, I still found a way to provide key takeaways from our programs so that caregivers, staff, and students would be better educated on asthma management, and more. Switching gears with the pandemic was definitely not what I imagined when I began my service year, however, I learned so much in the process. This transition gave me a broader understanding of what community organizations are capable of and how they can restructure themselves to better serve community needs. As we develop more projects in the future, I aim to continue collaborating with the community on what can serve them best.