In Sickness and in Health: Panel Discusses Health Trends in Evanston and Skokie

Courtesy of Sean Su"

Courtesy of Sean Su

Last Tuesday, the Evanston Public Library in collaboration with the Village of Skokie, the Erie Family Health Center, and NU International Program Development, hosted a discussion on current health trends in the Evanston and Skokie neighborhoods. The event was titled “In Sickness and in Health” and consisted of a panel of three speakers: Evonda Thomas-Smith, director of the Evanston Health Department; Dr. Catherine Counard, director of the  Village of Skokie Health Department; and Dr. Avery Hart, Chief Medical Officer of Erie Evanston/Skokie Community Health Center.

Northwestern Global Health Professor Michael Diamond introduced the event as the first of many discussions that will be organized by the Hircules Health Hub, which is a project committed to providing easier access to health information by collaborating with other community health organizations. As a part of this new project, Northwestern global health students will be volunteering to operate desks at the Evanston and Skokie Public Libraries starting in Spring 2015 in order to provide information about the latest health concerns in the respective communities. The group will also be holding monthly discussions on various health themes, such as nutrition, cancer, etc. in order to empower local community members with knowledge about maintaining their health.

In addition to introducing the concept of local community health desks at the Evanston and Skokie libraries, the event also served as an opportunity for the Skokie and Evanston health departments and the Erie Family Health Center to provide summaries of the latest health trends in Skokie and Evanston.

The leading health concerns in the Evanston community was asthma for the youth and obesity for the older population, said Evonda Thomas-Smith, Director of the Evanston Health Department.  However, through a number of surveys distributed in the community, the Evanston Health Department found that the top pressing health concern in the community was access to health care. Similarly, Dr. Catherine Counard, director of the Village of Skokie Health Department, said that according to surveys, Skokie residents reported that access to care and health information was also the most pressing health concern in their community.

Dr. Avery Hart, Chief Medical Officer of Erie Evanston/Skokie Community Health Center, said, “Every day I’m seeing new patients, and each one has his own story or her own story, but these are all stories that revolve around not having access to healthcare.” The mission of the Erie Family Health Center is to provide affordable health services to those in need. Due to its location on the border of Evanston and Skokie, which is comprised of various ethnicities, the Erie clinic is employed by culturally diverse employees and also offers interpreters for over two hundred languages. Prior to the launch of Erie in 2013, residents without health care had no way of receiving health services.

Throughout the entire discussion, the three panelists continued to emphasize the power of libraries in serving as a resource for health information. The traffic of local residents that come through libraries in addition to various books and library resources available make it the perfect location to host community health desks. The idea of collaboration between health care providers, community health leaders, and local Health Departments is key in making information about health care more transparent and affordable to the public.

The twenty-five audience members included medical providers, public leaders in healthcare, faculty and students from Northwestern’s Global Health Studies program, and the general public.

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