UBC's Okanagan medical and nursing students focus on community health
Students from the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Nursing at UBC’s Okanagan campus are working collaboratively to provide health action teams for the local community.
The newly-established Community Action Teams for Community Health BC (CATCH BC) are groups of medical and nursing students that work together and with public health organizations to assess health risks and provide disease prevention information and strategies to local residents.
The CATCH model was originally created in 2010 by Dr. Charlotte Jones, endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine with the UBC Faculty of Medicine while at the University of Calgary. Jones recently joined the Southern Medical Program at UBC’s Okanagan campus and brought the successful community outreach program with her.
CATCH benefits patients as it works on the principal of upstream thinking, or early detection, to help reduce the number of patients with chronic disease who will need to see specialists further down the stream of their medical care, she explains. And while it’s good for the patients, it also benefits students as it fulfills the university’s objectives for interprofessional teaching and learning. Meanwhile, the students also satisfy public health needs and gain valuable community experience while still at school.
“The goal of CATCH BC is to help improve the health of ‘at risk’ community members while exposing students to interprofessional practice,” says Jones. “Students help to address the health needs of diverse populations within our community and they gain valuable experience working in a collaborative environment, similar to that in which they will practice upon graduating from their respective programs.”
CATCH BC conducted its first public health event at the recent Diversity Health Fair held at the Okanagan Sikh Temple — this year’s theme was chronic disease prevention. The Diversity Fair is an annual health event led by Kelowna Community Resources which features more than 20 different health-related organizations. Event speakers included Jones and School of Nursing Prof. Joan Bottorff, director of the Institute of Health Living and Chronic Disease Prevention.
“Diabetes and hypertension are the two biggest risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease,” says Antonia Sappong, a first-year Southern Medical Program student. “Our goal is to connect with people in the community and encourage at risk individuals to act early enough to avoid further complications.”
Students provided free health assessments to more than 100 participants. After measuring each participant’s blood pressure, they used the Canadian diabetes risk questionnaire to assess each participant’s risk for diabetes. The students also provided healthy lifestyle recommendations to each individual.
“We are able to raise awareness about high risk factors and provide advice on healthy lifestyles,” says Robyn Fedediko, fourth-year nursing student. “Each participant is given a risk assessment from low to moderate and then they are given some advice based on their risk level — that advice might include a possible follow-up with the appropriate health care professional.”
CATCH BC represents a partnership with the UBC Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Health and Social Development’s School of Nursing, the Institute of Health Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, Interior Health, and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Plans are underway to provide similar workshops in the Okanagan over the coming months. Faculty members were recently joined by a representative from the Interior Health Authority to host training sessions for students at the Reichwald Health Sciences Centre at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
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