Northwestern students are currently attending weekly training sessions for very exciting work that they will begin with Erie Family Health Center. The volunteers will be working closely with Erie Health Center staff in order to promote Erie health information and health care services.
Erie Family Health Center delivers high-quality, culturally-sensitive, bilingual health care to more then 50,000 medical patients in Chicago. Communities served include Humboldt Park, Lincoln Square, North Lawndale, and Uptown. Among their central philosophies is the belief that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and they will offer services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Seventy-nine percent of Erie’s patients are Hispanic and 31% are uninsured. 
The organization is a Federally qualified health center (FQHC), meaning it is an organization under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act. FQHCs receive special benefits including enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. They treat underserved areas, offer a sliding fee scale, and provide comprehensive health services.  These efforts are meant to shift medical efforts from treatment to prevention, reducing costs and improving overall community health. The goal of Erie Family Health Center, among other FQHCSs, is to create what is known as a “medical home.” This is a place where a patient’s records are kept confidential, care is coordinated, and a personal physician can establish an ongoing relationship with a patient.
The newest addition of Erie Family Health Center’s 12 locations is the Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center. There is a large demand in the area for comprehensive, culturally-competent care. Skokie is one of the most culturally-diverse communities in the United States, with a high number of immigrants and refugees speaking 87 languages other than English. Many of the area’s low-income families have members that have multiple jobs and limited access to transportation. However, Erie Evanston/Skokie hopes to make family care accessible to such demographics, allowing each member of the family to receive quality health services including women’s health care, prenatal care, pediatric care, and behavioral health care.
How are Northwestern students planning to help this organization? The plan is threefold:
- Organize a database of related agencies. Students will create a database of service and community organizations in the Evanston/Skokie area in order to learn how services already present in the community relate to health care. Many of these community resources will be vital for referrals from Erie Evanston/Skokie. Likewise, these organizations will hopefully help spread the word of Erie’s services to their members.
- Contact local organizations. Students will pair up and contact each of these organizations and use a questionnaire in order to collect this information. Cold calling will also be used to further add to the database.
- Open up a health information desk at Skokie Public Library. In collaboration between Erie Evanston/Skokie Community Health Center, Skokie Public Library, Skokie Health Department, Evanston Health Department, Evanston Public Library and Northwestern University Global Health Studies, there are also plans to create a volunteer-run health information desk at Skokie Public Library. This resource could be vital for non-English-speaking populations who do not know where to access culturally-competent health services in their spoken language.
For more information regarding NU Community Health Volunteers, please contact Michael Diamond (firstname.lastname@example.org).