When healthcare disparities affect underinsured and uninsured populations, individuals can go completely unaware of dangerous illnesses and their long term consequences. To combat these disparities, the UTC School of Nursing (SON) and the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) students teamed up to work a multi-station booth at the 13th Annual Minority Health Fair hosted by the Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium Foundation in Chattanooga On Saturday, August 22, 2015 at the Eastgate Towncenter.
The Minority Health Fair is an annual event that brings together leading health providers and institutions and populations impacted by healthcare disparities in the greater Chattanooga area to provide free health screenings and health education.
“At UTC, we learn about medical treatment, but we also emphasize a model of preventative medicine, health promotion, and education. We are well equipped to handle it when things go south, but we want to get out in front of it and prevent it before that if we can. That was one of our big goals at the Fair, to let people know about current illnesses as well as potential health concerns and how to prevent them,” said Adam Leland, a UTC student pursuing his Master’s of Science in Nursing degree, Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration.
The event was action packed as eight faculty and staff members and 37 students provided fair participants with valuable health screenings which included: a Balance Station, a BMI Station, a Blood Pressure Station, a Blood Glucose Station, a Lung Function Screening Station, and a Lipids Station, where a lipid panel was done on those participants who were identified as high risk for cholesterol problems.
“The SON and its Director, Dr. Chris Smith, really do a lot to encourage students to get involved in the community, and this was a good opportunity for UTC to serve the public. Many underinsured people aren’t aware they have these illnesses or really don’t understand the seriousness of the illnesses they are living with. We were working to address that,” Leland said.
At check out from the booth, participants received both verbal and written patient education and referral to health care providers if indicated. UTC faculty and a physician were on hand to address and serious screening results that required immediate attention.
“The idea was that people would come through our booths and get screened for several different illnesses, and depending on the results, our last booth would give them some verbal education on what they needed to do as well as some pamphlets that went into more detail,” said Leland. “Telling them they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol won’t make them feel better, but it gets this underserved population at least a point of contact within the health care system so they can begin treatment.”
For Leland, who also works at Erlanger, this was a reminder of how many people within the minority, underserved populations live with treatable illnesses.
“Even though I work in healthcare every day, and I’m able to understand the implications of, say, a super high blood sugar, some of these people, their mom had diabetes, their grandparents had diabetes, and they think it’s no big deal. Maybe they feel tired and fatigued all the time and they think it’s because life is just hard, because they’re used to it. Well maybe, but if you’re diabetic and your blood sugar is out of whack, we can manage that,” Leland said.
“Part of our job was letting people know that if you took care of this, you would not only feel better now, you could avoid some big issues down the road, like kidney failure, vision impairment, limb amputation. There are treatment options that are relatively affordable and minimally invasive, and that is so preferable to the major consequences that are not only expensive, but seriously impact quality of life,” Leland continued.
Overall, organizers of the Minority Health Fair expected over 3,500 attendees and the UTC booth screened nearly 900 people.
This activity was funded by the COMPASS grant, which was obtained by Dr. Chris Smith, Director of the School of Nursing, from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a federal agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“We wanted to use this funding opportunity to really reach out to the community, and this event gave us access to a large group of people we could screen and inform about various health concerns,” Smith said.
The purpose of the grant includes outreach to minority, underserved populations across the lifespan, with a focus on the epidemic of obesity in the Chattanooga area. COMPASS grant faculty and staff, Dr. Howard-Baptiste, Dr. Gwen Carlton, Sherry Marlow and Mark Harvey organized all the details to make this extraordinary event a reality. The SON is currently in the second year of the three year Compass grant and plans to return to the Minority Health Fair next year.
“It was a very large, well organized event, and we were very happy to be a part of it. It was such a positive educational experience for everyone involved that we hope to be able to keep it up even after the grant ends,” Smith said.