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Students plan rural outreach

BY NOELLE ALKHAWAJA | MARCH 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Some students are hoping to bring vital health care to rural residents in Washington County.

A group of University of Iowa health-care students planned an upcoming health event in the county called “Passport to Health, a Free Wellness Event,” which will include other health-worker volunteers.

“Concerns in rural health exist and have existed for a long time in Iowa,” said Ben Urick, a UI graduate student in pharmaceutical socioeconomics. “People who live in rural areas, just by definition, have lesser access to health services.”

The event’s object is to provide free health screenings to those who otherwise would not have access to them.

By doing so, the residents can then pursue further health care for issues they were not previously aware of.

“There is one hospital in Washington County, Iowa, and that is Washington County Hospital,” said Robert Nichols, a UI student in the College of Pharmacy. “[The area] meet a designation as a medically underserved area.”

The group will include students from numerous UI Health Care programs such as the American Pharmacy Association, Academy of Student Pharmacists, Student National Pharmaceutical Association, Young Community Nurse Clinicians, and other student groups.

The mission is to “bring together students in multiple health professions and community health care resources to conduct a wellness event focused on heart health and overall wellness,” Urick said.

In 2010, Washington County had a community health-needs assessment in which community stakeholders were invited to discuss prevalent health issues and the steps needed to solve them.

“Access to health care is a big issue in Iowa, and we identified it as a barrier in our assessment,” said Lynn Fisher, a public-health nurse in Washington County. “This event is a strategy we can use to overcome that barrier.”

Some of the issues identified at the meeting included obesity prevention, access to physical activity, access to health care, and injury prevention and farm safety, Fisher said.

The idea for the students’ event sprung from a mixture of Urick’s observations as a child, as well as these current health assessments, and other work he has procured in Washington County.

“I grew up on a farm 15 miles away from the town; I went to high school with a father who has Type 1 diabetes,” Urick said. “I saw the concerns with access that people in rural areas have. ‘How do we get medicine? Do we have to drive 15 miles to the pharmacy?’ That’s a problem.”

Not only does this event provide free health screenings as a primary objective, but it also provides UI students with the opportunity to get involved in rural health and gain experience through volunteering at the event, said Emma Buchele, a UI nursing student.

“It’s a really good way for these undergraduate students to gain experience,” she said. “They’ll be communicating with these people, educating them about their results and helping them get connected with the resources they need to.”

It also simulates a realistic working environment for students, Nichols said.

“They’ll be working with graduate students, as ideally you would want them to when they’re in practice,” he said. “[It’s] medical professionals working together to improve the overall health of the community.”

At Tuesday evening’s UI Graduate and Professional Student Government meeting, involved students were awarded $1,500 for the event.

It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18,at the Washington County Public Library, 115 W. Washington St.

“I plan to volunteer that day in whatever I’m needed,” Fisher said. “I’m happy to support it, and it’s a good thing to help affect our health and wellness for our residents.”


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