Interns collect data on health services in area

MOULTRIE — Health issues, particularly rural health concerns, are becoming major topics as civic leaders here make priority lists that lend to community development and improvements.

Assessing health-care needs requires a lot of study and the Moultrie-Colquitt County Community through the Archway Project, a recently organized health committee and the Healthy Colquitt County Coalition has begun efforts that address numerous health related issues specifically including childhood obesity. Collecting and assessing data is crucial to these understandings.

yernia-preer-sarah-hines-barbara-gaston-webIn that regard, for the past 10-weeks, three Masters students from the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia have been residing and working as interns in the Colquitt County area. These interns were gained through a collaborative effort between Colquitt County, The College of Public Health at UGA, and the Archway Partnership.

The interns were placed in three different areas of public health within Southwest Georgia in order to assist the community, including the Southwest Georgia Public Health Department, the Healthy Colquitt Coalition, and the Ellenton Health Clinic, while also learning about the health and medical community in rural areas.

The call for interns for the Southwest Georgia Public Health District began in 2009 when Kitty Bishop, director of Nursing and Clinical Services for the Southwest Georgia Health District, created a proposal to get interns involved in an assessment of the district’s standard appointment times.

“We were in the process of having to do more with less, so this assessment was one of those things that kept getting pushed back,” Bishop said.

One intern, Sarah Hines, was placed in the Southwest Georgia Public Health District in Albany,  to work on a current assessment of the standard appointment times.

Because of an upgrade to the computer system in 2009, the amount of work and time required for processing each individual patient has changed.  While the standard appointment time assessment focuses on clinical times, informal anecdotal interviews conducted during clinic operation reviews held every other year, as well as reports from county nurse managers, supported the need for the assessment of clerical time.

The results of this project will achieve one of the District Office of Nursing’s goals and help clinics to impact efficiency and subsequently improve customer service offered by the 14 counties in the Southwest Georgia Public Health District.

During her 10-week period, Hines’ main project included visiting all the counties within the Southwest Georgia district, and determining with the clinical providers and clerical providers how much time each procedure and clerical work takes in order to better serve patients in the area.

Along with this project, Hines participated in numerous events, including protocol and safety meetings, and worked on presentations to secure funds for future interns.

Yernia Preer, who worked as an intern for the Healthy Colquitt Coalition, also worked closely within the community in an effort to raise awareness of healthy decisions Colquitt County community members could make.

Preer worked on a project called the Community Healthy Living Index, an index that uses surveys of the community to create a score on the healthy habits of that community.

“The main goal of the project was to make the Colquitt County residents healthier in terms of the activities that they do and some of the opportunities that are available to them,” Preer said.

This was the first time the HCC was able to use this new tool, and Greg Coop, CEO of the Moultrie YMCA, says that it was because of Preer’s hard work that the index was able to be utilized. This means that the HCC can now provide advice to community organizations on how to make their organization a healthier one, Coop said.

“Having Yernia really helped us utilize this new tool,” Coop said.  “Before we just didn’t have the man power to work this index.”

The Ellenton Health Clinic was the third organization to have an intern for the summer.  Intern Barbara Gaston worked on an Economic Evaluation and Cost Analysis during her 10-week period.  This analysis involves pulling information from other clinics in the area, and showing the community the benefits the Ellenton Health Clinic has provided both socially and economically.

Gaston was the only intern to stay with a host family during her 10-week internship.  In fact, she stayed with two families during her stay.

“I have been really lucky because I’ve met so many great people. I was very lucky to get to meet my two host families too,” Gaston said.

In order to stay in Colquitt for 10 weeks, all three interns received student funding. Two were funded by the Georgia Public Health Training Center, and one from a scholarship, which meant that the interns came at no cost to the community.  The Georgia Public Health Training Center at the UGA College of Public Health facilitated all three placements.

“This gives students an opportunity to really see how Public Health works in action. It’s a wonderful training opportunity,” Ashley Wells, Center Coordinator for the Georgia Public Health Training Center at the UGA College of Public Health, said. “They learn so much about what rural and underserved medical communities are, they just really benefit from getting that real world experience.”

For the students involved, they felt that they were given more opportunities in a rural community than they would have had doing an internship in a larger community.

“It was evident that we were going to be able to do so much more down here and get affiliated with so many more people and get out into the field ourselves instead of being in the typical intern position,” Hines said.

However, these intern’s experiences were not just beneficial to their own growth, but also beneficial to the county and the district.

“From the community perspective, an outside set of eyes is great to have” Coop said.  “It’s harder to find room for improvement when you only have insiders working on the project.”

The  UGA College of Public Health is hoping to place additional interns in Colquitt County and throughout Southwest Georgia. Any organizations that are interested in utilizing an intern are urged to contact Emily Watson, Archway Public Health Professional, at 229-616-7086 or [email protected]

– Emily Watson

Posted August 10, 2011. 

Originally published in The Moultrie Observer