One of the biggest obstacles to health education and prevention screening is access.
And a new Parish Health program at Chaminade University is focused on addressing that.
The program, unique on Oahu, gives Chaminade Nursing students the opportunity to work one-on-one with parishioners after Mass or via telehealth appointments to offer blood pressure, nutritional or other types of screenings, make assessments on determinants of health and connect them with resources.
The students receive critical hands-on experiences with members of the community. And parishioner participants, who are 55 and older, are equipped with tools they can use to improve their wellness.
“We really wanted to develop a Parish Health program to serve the needs of the community with education, health promotion and even healthcare,” said Dr. Pamela Smith, School of Nursing and Health Professions associate dean. “Many of our students enjoy the fellowship and ministry part of school, and this was an opportunity to blend it into nursing-related education and public health-related education.”
Smith said a Marianist Sponsorship Ministries Foundation grant helped cover costs for the program’s launch, including health promotion items for participants like pedometers, blood pressure monitors and gift cards farmers markets. The program was also made possible in part, by Kaiser Permanente through the Catholic Care Coalition.
After conversations with community stakeholders, the program officially kicked off in the Fall Term in partnership with the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Kalihi. Nursing students offered screenings and health education to parishioners at the co-cathedral after each Mass. They also connected with parishioners via telehealth appointments—over the phone and through virtual meetings.
The program was expanded in the Spring to include a focus on exercise—a virtual Walk to Jerusalem that focused on the importance of movement to overall health. Participants signed up for the walk online and then tracked their progress with others along the way.
The next step for the program, Smith said, is growth.
There’s hope it can be expanded to more parishes on Oahu and even to the Neighbor Islands. The School of Nursing and Health Professions is also focused on increasing the number of students offering Parish Health services, including through one-on-one telehealth screening appointments.
Nursing student Zane Biscocho was among those who participated in the program. As part of the telehealth rotation, he held 30- to 60-minute screening interviews with parishioners to discuss everything from healthy eating to the importance of taking prescribed medication on time.
“One thing that I enjoyed most about being a part of the Parish Health program was learning how to be adaptable, utilize telehealth and education fairs, and also getting the chance to educate my patients about their appointments and concerns they may have had,” Biscocho said, after completing the experience. “My biggest takeaway is that healthcare expands far beyond the hospital.”
He added that Parish Health is not only making a difference, but adapting to meet participant needs.
That’s what Nursing student Tyler Insillo appreciated the most.
“It is always so important to meet people where they are,” she said. “We have to listen to what the community feels their needs are and address those needs accordingly, with consideration to not only their resources and time but their readiness to learn and accept the education we are sharing.”
As part of the program, Insillo delivered telehealth surveys along with in-person lessons on cardiovascular health. She said working one-on-one with participants was a rewarding experience. “I enjoyed working the community and helping them see the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
For details on the Parish Health program, click here.