Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
Prescription for Change
Emily is a senior concentrating in Public Health. She has been deeply involved in public service in Providence throughout her four years at Brown, and is presently a Campus Coordinator for Health Leads, a program that connects low-income families at Hasbro Hospital with basic resources in the community to improve their health from a structural level.
Sitting in Room 16 of the Hasbro Pediatric Clinic was Maria, her 6-month-old baby Alexandra, Dr. Robinson, and myself, suited up in my blue Health Leads polo. Dr. Robinson had called me in from the Health Leads desk in the waiting area to speak to Maria after hearing about her and Alexandra’s unsafe housing conditions: a home with poor air ventilation, peeling paint, and roaches.
I began conducting an intake assessment; we discussed her situation and I recorded her demographics, trying to repress my surprise after realizing her birthdate was two years after mine. I shared with Maria various resources in the community that she could contact to ameliorate the conditions, and she shared with me some of the steps she’d taken to fix this problem so far.
By the time Maria and her daughter were ready to leave, in addition to walking out with a prescription for an inhaler for her baby, she left with a prescription for a healthy home.
At Health Leads, a national non-profit organization that believes basic needs such as food, heat, and clothing should be a standard component of quality care, college-student advocates work alongside low-income individuals as they navigate the resource landscape. What public health advocates like me envision is for basic needs and medical care to be truly integrated; in addition to treating a child for asthma, for example, pediatricians will work to eliminate the actual cause of the asthma: the mold in the child’s bedroom.
Just this year, we’ve made a huge leap to achieve this goal. After parting from the Health Leads umbrella organization and forming our own partnership between Swearer and Hasbro, our work in Providence is starting to look different.
Rather than an outside organization initiating change in the community, Hasbro itself is taking on the responsibility. Instead of just us, Brown University students, marketing Health Leads to potential clients, the doctors themselves are making these conversations a routine part of their patient visits. While college students are still the ones working directly with clients to address these basic needs, the doctors and Hasbro are putting a greater emphasis on addressing the problems in the first place.
At times this shift has been confusing and overwhelming, but overall it’s a really exciting move. After several conversations and reflections, I realized this is the new health care system we had dreamed about. What was always a seemingly distant vision is now becoming a reality, and we are at the forefront of this change.
So rather than fixating on the small hurdles we still need to resolve, I am trying to think big. What if all patients could be like Maria and receive access to resources to improve underlying problems rather than superficially treating medical problems as they arise? What if all doctors initiated these conversations with their patients?
We still have a long way to go. These issues are deeply entangled with poverty and racism, and so while Health Leads can provide individual support and empowerment, they are still relatively temporary fixes. But by starting the conversation about structural issues related to health, we play a small part of the transformation that is possible.
As Providence Health Leads advocates we are pioneers in this changing system. And I can’t wait to see where it leads.
* names have been changed
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016