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Learning About Empowering Community Services

By: Rosa Rios

Last Saturday we learned about the Engineering Solutions to Injustice, presented by Miss Jennifer Makelasrki. She is a researcher at the Lindau Laboratory at the University of Chicago. The Lindau Laboratory performs health service research to promote justice in health and health care. The Lab currently has researchers across multiple disciplines such as epidemiology, gerontology, anthropology, public health, and health communication. The lab focuses on population health improvement and female sexuality in the context of aging, cancer, and other common diseases.

South Side Health and Vitality Studies

An important area of work of this lab includes the South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS). The SSHVS is a collaborative effort between university researchers and community members. The SSHVS’s goal is to understand how community assets, information and communication technologies can be used to improve health. In the SSHVS project, the Lindau Lab engages youths into programs that leverage community assets in order to identify priorities, conduct research, and generate knowledge about meaningful services in the community. For example, MAPScorps is an SSHVS project where teenagers map their community services to build a list of local organizations that offer products to the neighborhood. Once someone is referred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, the community counselor will use this list to offer community services appropriate to patient needs. For more information about this project visit: http://www.mapscorps.org/

Help Families To Obtain Food

The Feed First Project by Lindau Laboratory intends to help parents with food limitations. This project started in a Chicago Southside hospital where the program started a free cafeteria for those parents who felt food insecure while staying in the hospital with their sick child. The project fed the parents and allowed them to take food home. The Feed First Project connected community services such as MAPScorps to families in the hospital, so when the family is back into the community, they are able to find support easily.

Food insecurity is a major issue in our society. Based on the Chicago Food Bank Organization, in 2012 more than 800,000 individuals were not sure about when and where their next meal will be (food insecure). Food insecurity is predominant in the West and South suburbs of Chicago. You can read more here: http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/site/PageServer?pagename=hunger_research.

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the use of a two question screener for food insecurity in the electronic medical record. This helps to identify at-risk families and assigns community services to assist them. Food insecurity can affect children’s behavior and development eventually leading to chronic diseases, poor school performance, and irreversible health consequences. To read more about this topic in the AAP click on this link: http://www.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/10/23/aapnews.20151023-1

The MAPScorp and the Feed First project are good examples using communication arts and sciences to improve health. An increase in health communication professionals will be a critical factor in building better health campaigns for the community in the years to come.