AmeriCorps Position at Juniata College Created to Further Public Health Partnership
(Posted May 21, 2019)
Huntingdon, Pa. – The Healthy Huntingdon Partnership, formed by Juniata College and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, will incorporate a new position this summer to further the mission of the hospital’s Force for Health initiative.
As part of that partnership to promote wellness in all spheres of individual and community health, Juniata has been approved to host a one-year Community Partnership Coordinator through AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).
“People who live at the poverty line tend to have lower health literacy and are at a disadvantage in accessing health care and making choices that would make a positive impact on health and wellbeing.”
“AmeriCorps VISTA is a year of service for college graduates to engage within a community, in a capacity related to alleviating poverty in some way,” said Sarah Worley, associate professor of communication and director of community-engaged learning at the College.
Throughout rural America, socioeconomic factors play a large part in access to and understanding of healthcare. Force for Health was created in response to an assessment which found local rates of obesity, heart disease and suicide in excess of state statistics and launched Aug. 1, 2017, using a “Live It. Learn It. Share It.” approach.
Force for Health founder Dr. Robert Gillio, Medical Director of Population Health and Clinical Intervention and a practicing pulmonologist at J.C. Blair, sees the coordinator as a liaison between the hospital, the campus and the community.
"The relationship with Juniata and this VISTA staff position will build capacity to expand the Force for Health Program TEAM experience,” Gillio said.
Three core areas of need have been identified – improving access to care, mental health and addiction prevention and treatment and wellness.
“There is literature that speaks to the relationship between high levels of poverty and low levels of health literacy,” Worley said. “People who live at the poverty line tend to have lower health literacy and are at a disadvantage in accessing health care and making choices that would make a positive impact on health and wellbeing.”
The coordinator will be responsible for interfacing with Force for Health Clubs to identify specific issues of concern and address them through the IDEAS Model (Identify, Design, Engage, Assess, and Share).
“They have problems they identify and start to solve with their IDEAS projects,” he said. “Since the VISTA position supports health literacy education for the high school and other organizations, one result can be a pipeline of youth exposed to professions here that may wish to train further and locate here to serve the community. “
An additional responsibility will be recruiting Juniata students to volunteer with and support Force for Health clubs to further the goal of improving health literacy.
“Over the past few years, we’ve had a number of students who have been involved primarily as interns,” said Worley. “I think this presents a mutually beneficial opportunity for students and the College to build initiatives and make sure those IDEAS projects can flourish in our community.”
AmeriCorps is program supported by the federal government, private donors, organizations and businesses which aims to engage adults to help others while meeting critical needs in the community through public service.
“(The coordinator) will have office space and access to resources on campus. Host sites are encouraged to help provide things like housing contributions,” she said. “They receive a stipend through AmeriCorps, but we have invested as an institution. We value the partnership with the hospital and see this as an opportunity for reciprocity and a way to deepen its commitment to making a difference for the public good.”
Contact April Feagley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 641-3131 for more information.