Northern Illinois University

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Shirley Richmond, Brad Brown, Alan Robinson
Shirley Richmond, dean of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences, and Alan Robinson, the college's director of outreach, receive a check from Brad Brown (center), a member of the board of the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

November 22, 2005

DeKalb County Community Foundation grants
money to rehabilitate NIU mobile health trailer

DeKalb — A grant of $10,626 from the DeKalb County Community Foundation will put the Northern Illinois University College of Health and Human Sciences on the road again, continuing a mission to bring health care to underserved rural areas.

The college owns a trailer equipped for hearing screenings that once toured nearby farms. Long retired from that duty, it now will return to service renovated as a mobile health-screening facility for “vulnerable populations” often without transportation, such as children, the elderly and, primarily, Hispanic families.

Screening equipment will be expanded to include supplies and materials not only for nursing but also for nursing (physicals), dietetics (obesity, diet patterns) and clinical laboratory sciences (including blood analysis, diabetic measures and cholesterol checks). The trailer will travel to wellness fairs, school-based health-screening activities, events for senior citizens and other places as identified.

Renovations should wrap up within two months, which will include the ordering, delivery and installation of equipment and supplies.

“We are very honored and appreciative of the grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation,” said Shirley Richmond, dean of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences.

“This will not only be helpful for the children and their families during their Head Start physicals, but also will allow us to screen for other conditions, such as high glucose levels and high cholesterol. If these conditions are detected early, we can help refer people for additional evaluation,” Richmond added. “In this way, we will work with the agencies in DeKalb County to promote a healthy community. Healthy communities are not only better communities, but research shows the economy of a community is usually better if you have a healthy workforce.”

Jerry Smith, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, said the decision process proved “very easy” after reviewing the grant application.

“This has 'community' written all over it, what with NIU, the DeKalb County Health Department, various public schools and Conexion Comunidad all involved in some way,” Smith said.

“We hope the reconfiguration of this trailer will in some small way help those who are 'on the edge' to have access to health care. It will provide basic screening and care to those who may not have the ability to get it otherwise,” he added. “This will not do it all, but it puts us in a position where we can continue to address what really is a divide between the haves and the have-nots.”

Impetus for the project came from a January survey distributed to English as a Second Language classes and through local churches.

The survey discovered its respondents only go to the doctor when they are sick and, if sick, go to hospitals, the emergency room, doctor's offices and health departments. They lack medical insurance, and no less than 82 percent take medicine on a permanent basis, but only a small percentage have prescription assistance.

Meanwhile, language poses a major obstacle to their access to health care. Few participate in dental care because of the language barriers and costs, and home remedies are used in close to half of the respondents' cases.

The clinic-on-wheels will have providers who can interact with the Hispanic population, and the informational brochures will feature English and Spanish.

“The community will help us provide an excellent educational environment for our students,” Richmond said. “How better can you learn than working with your faculty and clients in the 'real world?' Students will see their faculty in the 'professional role' of working with patients, and experience the reward from the feeling of helping others and giving back to the community.”

The college will fund operation of the trailer as much as possible, but will seek partnerships and relationships in the larger community to schedule and deliver an ongoing screening service.

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