How Does the National Health Corps Pittsburgh Impact Local Communities?
Nov 01, 2016 06:57AM
By Jill Cueni Cohen
National Health Corps is one of the largest health-focused, national AmeriCorps programs. While promoting health care for underserved communities and individuals, this partially federally funded organization is also developing the country’s future health care work force. We spoke to Director Annie Nagy to learn about the ways National Health Corps Pittsburgh affects our communities.
North Hills Monthly Magazine (NHMM): What is AmeriCorps?
Annie Nagy (Nagy): AmeriCorps is an expansion of national service that was created in 1993 when President Clinton signed the National Community Service Trust Act. Today, AmeriCorps annually engages more than 75,000 Americans nationwide in intensive service to nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups.
NHMM: How does the National Health Corps tie into this?
Nagy: The National Health Corps (NHC) is an AmeriCorps direct service program established in 1994. NHC recruits, trains and places emerging leaders into resource-limited organizations throughout four operating sites in Chicago, North Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Since its inception in 1994, the National Health Corps Pittsburgh (NHCP) has been managed through the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD). Both NHCP members and ACHD benefit from this innovative relationship; future public health leaders are able to develop important, competency-based skills while helping to carry out the goals and objectives of the health department. While serving at their host sites, NHCP members connect with community members and provide direct service in an effort to increase access to care and social services, as well as provide health education to underserved populations throughout the county.
NHMM: What is the NHCP’s mission?
Nagy: The basis of NHCP is to increase access to health care for the most vulnerable and under-represented members of our community. People in Allegheny County lack access to care for a variety of reasons. NHCP members provide direct service in an effort to increase access to care and social services, and provide health education to vulnerable populations in the county. We're encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles and assisting them in overcoming the barriers they face when accessing healthcare for themselves and their families.
NHMM: How do NHCP members do this?
Nagy: Our members enroll residents in health insurance, and provide information on health care access and other health benefits programs. They aid residents in accessing social service benefits such as transportation, utility bills, legal assistance and child care. They conduct health screenings and testing for diabetes, HIV/STI, heart disease and cancer. They also teach health education to children and adults on a variety of topics such as nutrition, fitness, sex education, anti-smoking, healthy relationships, HIV/STI prevention, diabetes and other chronic disease management.
NHMM: Where do they serve?
Nagy: Members serve in federally qualified health clinics, nonprofits, food pantries, the food bank and the health department.
NHMM: How can people help your organization?
Nagy: We are always exploring potential new host sites in our community. We place members in host sites that focus on health education or increasing access to healthcare. Our members provide direct service working with clients, patients and the public for 90 percent of their service time. Our role is to fill the gap in organizations that want to expand services that are often underfunded and understaffed. The host sites pay approximately $10,000 for a full-time member for 10-1/2 months. The federally funded Corporation for National and Community Service pays the remaining program costs.
NHMM: How many people does NHCP reach in a year?
Nagy: During the past service year, members reached nearly 23,000 Allegheny County residents according to our performance measure data. We educated more than 17,000 residents on nutrition and fitness, heart health, chronic disease prevention, vaccine awareness, healthy relationships, hepatitis and other infectious diseases. Nearly 6,000 people were provided access to health care, including health insurance, enrollment assistance, chronic disease management counseling, and scheduling appointments for preventative, primary or specialty care. We also screened and tested approximately 400 people for diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health and obesity.
NHMM: What kind of people make good AmeriCorps members?
Nagy: We look for people who have volunteer experience and have shown that they have a commitment to service with an interest in health. It is challenging service but very rewarding and so we look for individuals who demonstrate that they really care about their community. Most of our members join AmeriCorps right after graduating college. Our program runs from early September to mid-July and many of our members go on to attend graduate or medical school the following year. It's a great gap year, because members get hands-on experience in the community, working in public health every day. Once they complete the program they receive an education award.
NHMM: What do AmeriCorps members like most about the program?
Nagy: It helps members find their focus for graduate school. After 10-1/2 months, many have a clearer understanding of what they want to do and what type of health they want to practice. Experience in the field is invaluable in the classroom. Members have a greater understanding of how to navigate our complicated health care system and experience working with all different populations. It's
also a program that emphasizes experiential learning and reflection. We are striving to develop tomorrow's compassionate health leaders in the hopes that they will return and continue to serve the most vulnerable in our community. Graduating seniors and those interested in doing this type
of service can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see photos of NHCP members at work, see this story online at www.northhillsmonthly.com.