The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was recently named the recipient of two Aurora Health Care Better Together Fund grants–both aimed at helping build healthy communities.
The grant dollars, totaling more than $234,000, will help UW Oshkosh continue to fund initiatives at the the University-run Living Healthy Community Clinic (LHCC) as well as expand violence prevention education and increase crisis advocacy for student victims through a partnership between the UW Oshkosh Counseling Center and the social work department.
The funds awarded to the LHCC are a one-time contribution to help community-based providers serve their communities with better access to healthcare. This is the second time the LHCC has received funding from the Aurora Better Together Fund.
“This grant will help us do a lot of great things. It will allow us to expand our community outreach to the local Hispanic population and to fund the Food Pharmacy Pilot Program,” Leona Whitman, LHCC director, said.
For more than 30 years, the LHCC has been providing primary healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion services to individuals and families. The LHCC has a long history of meeting needs in the community by identifying issues and under-served populations. The LHCC advisory board is made up of a diverse group from the local community: a representative from the three major healthcare systems; two representatives from Winnebago County; as well as Whitman, the clinic director; and Leslie Neal-Boylan, UW Oshkosh College of Nursing (CON) dean. This allows the group to monitor the surrounding community and respond to needs as the board sees fit.
The healthcare needs of the local Hispanic population were brought to the LHCC by the county health department as a rising population at risk. The U.S. Census Bureau (2014) reports that 5,784 or 3.5 percent of Winnebago County is Hispanic/Latino. A primary goal of this initiative is to improve wellness and healthcare outcomes for Hispanic patients and to increase the cultural competency of healthcare providers as well as CON students.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to give students a broader perspective on the vulnerable populations we serve at the clinic,” Whitman said, adding that many UW Oshkosh students serve in internship and clinical opportunity roles at the clinic.
Additionally, the grant dollars awarded to the LHCC will help support a new Food Pharmacy Pilot Program, which is the first of its kind in the area. The LHCC will be responsible for identifying clients whose diabetes and or hypertension may be managed with a change of diet through clinic appointments and pre-screenings. Potential program participants will be screened for health indicators, including blood pressure readings, weight and lab work. Once a client has been identified as a candidate, a food prescription is written.
“We will essentially write a prescription to people who would benefit from having additional fresh fruit, vegetables and proteins in their diets. This pilot program with the food pantry is expected to bring better health to the participants,” Whitman said.
The prescription will include the type and amount of healthy foods, and the duration the client is permitted to access the free food. A minimum of 90 days is required to see changes in lab results and improvement in blood pressure readings.
The Oshkosh Area Community Pantry (OACP) will assist the LHCC with this program. Clients will register with the OACP to be users of the Food Pharmacy Program. Once registered, clients can bring in their prescription in exchange for fresh produce and lean proteins. Prescriptions can only be redeemed at OACP, which allows the program to track redemption of prescriptions. Participants then attend monthly or bimonthly clinic visits to refill their food Rx and to set new healthy goals.
The Better Together Fund will pay for fresh produce and lean protein sources that will be needed. Funds also will cover additional pantry administration for purchase, storage, inventory, disposal, forms development and process development to support the program.
Grant funds to help start new project at UW Oshkosh
Not only will the Better Together Fund grant dollars help throughout the community, but the awarded funds will help on campus, too.
Fredi Giesler, social work professor, and Sandy Cox, UW Oshkosh Counseling Center director, worked on a collaborative proposal to help expand violence prevention education and increase crisis advocacy for student victims of sexual violence.
The project–called CALM, which stands for caring, action, leadership and mindfulness–is a partnership between the social work department, the UW Oshkosh Counseling Center and REACH Counseling, which will engage students across campus in 2017 while also promoting the development of students working toward a master’s degree in social work.
The primary focus of the CALM project will be to engage students living on campus through public education and intervention efforts. Through CALM, two master’s level social work students will work with various areas on campus–within communication classes, residents halls and through the Counseling Center–to talk about and teach violence and prevention, stress management, mental health, effective interpersonal communication and more.
The Aurora grant dollars will help fund the internship experiences for the social work students as well as supplies needed to run the CALM project at UW Oshkosh.
“It’s a pretty major transition for students to come from home to a college campus, and some students are more prepared than others,” Giesler said. “We want students to have a positive experience at UW Oshkosh and know what resources exist if they have challenges. So we are being real and proactive and taking the information about what services exist out to our students with CALM.”
Giesler said social work students working toward their master’s degree are already required to do an internship–and the new CALM project on campus is a great way for students to practice the learned content in a real-world setting.
“I really wanted this program to have a prevention focus–it will touch a lot of people who live on the UW Oshkosh campus,” Giesler said. “What I hope is if students aren’t sure about using our Counseling Center or other student resources, it will make it easier for them, it will make it the norm.”