For Public Health work to be most effective in a community, there must be communication and collaboration between all of the organizations striving to make a difference. By exchanging information, sharing resources, and working towards a common purpose, health-centered organizations are maximizing the benefits to their community.
The National Health Corps-Florida is partnered with a variety of public health-focused nonprofit and government organizations in Northeast Florida. Our members provide direct services to these organizations (also known as host sites), ranging from enrolling uninsured patients into Medicaid to facilitating health education classes on chronic illnesses. Every position, and every host site, is unique; however, they all share a common purpose of improving the health and wellness of Jacksonville’s communities. Many residents of Jacksonville utilize the services of multiple organizations, which is why collaboration is crucial. Furthermore, the positive results of one organization may ultimately have downstream effects on other organizations.
Because the organizations we serve are so closely intertwined, a strong sense of esprit de corps among our members has the potential for far-reaching benefits. Much like public health organizations must collaborate, collaboration between NHC-FL members leads to favorable outcomes for both the members and their host sites. The many team-building activities from our Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) instilled a sense of unity, trust, and cooperation among the corps to kick off a year of service. For our most memorable activity, we were placed in teams and instructed to navigate a ropes course up to 40 feet in the air, forced to rely on teamwork in order to conquer its many challenging elements. It was not easy; at some parts, our eyes were shut and we were instructed to only use our sense of touch to move forward by locking arms. The course required collaboration in that we had to come up with solutions, as a team, to the many obstacles we were confronted with. The most challenging segment was as follows: two wires started on opposite ends and converged into a “V shape,” and then diverged again. Each half of the team began at opposite ends and were instructed to go forward, switching directions at the point of convergence; the tricky part was that we had to have a continuous line of contact between each and every one of us the entire way through. The many elements of the ropes course required skills such as trust, communication, and problem-solving skills, all of which we will utilize as we go forth in our service terms. For instance, navigating my team members across narrow wires without breaking contact required me to develop the communication skills that I will use to coordinate care for patients navigating the healthcare system.
There are several ways that members can use collaboration to have successful service terms. Collaboration, by definition, involves exchanging information and sharing resources for mutual benefit; members will do just that by sharing information pertinent to public health that they learn throughout their terms. Host sites such as Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and Barnabas may initially seem disparate, but are linked in more ways than one may think. While FDOH provides maternal and infant health, Barnabas is a general free clinic for patients of all genders and ages. However, the healthy growth of a newborn influences how the child will interact with the healthcare system in the future. By exchanging information through health fairs and group service projects, members can come up with novel ways to approach public health issues such as a high infant mortality rate. A host site that does free HIV testing would be relevant to a member at a maternal health host site, and projects that result from overlap between topics are often most effective at targeting the unique communities in northeast Florida, a region where rural meets urban, and where vastly different populations strive for similar wellness goals.
Not only is it important for our corps to have a strong sense of unity, but a strong sense of responsibility. Through PSO, we learned about the wide range of public health issues the populations of Northeast Florida face, such as high infant mortality rates and prevalence of tobacco use. The health disparities in Jacksonville are not something that can be eliminated overnight, but are rather an issue we must slowly and deliberately address through our services. The slow pace of change can make it easy to feel discouraged at times, but having a common purpose in mind makes the journey more fulfilling. As Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I like to think that this quote is quite applicable to the service we will be providing through the 2017-2018 term.
This blog post was written by NHC FL member Maja Radic.
Maja serves at Agape Health Clinic as a Patient Navigator.