January 31, 2011

Introducing: Our Health Resource Room!

By Tonya Hamilton of the DCPCA Health Corps, along with Liz Nafziger of the Mennonite Volunteer Service.

One of the most exciting rooms in our new medical clinic doesn’t have any medical equipment in it. Instead, it’s filled with computers!

Ri, an Avodah corps member, sits in our new health resource room.

We believe that access to the internet is a critical component of health care today. After all, the pursuit of healthy living is really an educational process. Today, immense sources of knowledge are available to people -- if they are able to access it. With our new health resource room, we can now facilitate that access on site here at Bread for the City.

As of last Thursday, the room was open for use!

Here’s how it will work: when clients meet with our providers, they’ll have conversations about health issues that they’ll want to follow up on afterwards. Clients can then visit the health resource room while waiting for their lab results or vaccinations -- or even just on their own time. There they can browse the internet and print out relevant information for reference later.

The resource room will also always have a friendly face on hand -- volunteers who can provide guidance in using computers and browsing the internet. Right now, we’re happy to have the involvement of supervolunteer Marie Hoffman, as well as students from George Washington’s ISCOPES program.

“To my knowledge, there aren’t many clinics out there that have a resource room like this,” says Marie. “And that’s stunning to think that we’re ahead of the curve. But it seems so obviously important!”

On its first day open, about 6 clients came through to use the facility. (We expect that number to increase in the future.) While waiting for labs I asked clients would they like to see what’s in the new health resource room, most were surprised and excited. One lady was initially scared to touch the mouse because she had never touched a computer before, and she didn’t want to break it. After I briefly orienting her with the basics, she grabbed the mouse and jumped right in. Together, we navigated Medline Plus to find articles and even instructional videos. She was stunned at all the things she could learn.

In the rest of the day, I helped people interested in learning more about warts, asthma, blood clots, and dietary guidelines for specific medication. One man, after researching his dental issues for a few moments, asked us to help him practice the questions he would ask his dentist during an upcoming appointment. Several patients were even more interested in researching the health issues that affect their loved ones.

The information one finds on the internet can’t truly substitute from the care people receive in our clinic, but it can empower clients to take responsibility for potentially-complicated health issues like hypertension into their own hands. It’s a great complement to our new computer literacy classes, and an opportunity to generate discussion -- in the resource room and in the community at large -- about how we live healthfully.

We look forward to sharing that discussion with you!

Tonya Hamilton

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