The COVID 19 pandemic has exposed inequities in our health system, with people from marginalized communities disproportionately bearing the impact of illness, disability, and death. Now is the time to innovate to address inequities and transform our system so that we all receive care that is high quality, better coordinated, and actively engaged in addressing social determinants of health, such as neighborhood safety, healthy food, and access to behavioral health care.
The needs in Western MA are particularly acute; data has revealed that minority communities were disproportionately impacted by COVID 19 and persistently lagged behind in COVID testing and vaccinations. Therefore, we have come together as health professions educators, practitioners, and community leaders to train health professions students in the core principles of health equity while working together on interprofessional teams. Our community partners and leaders, such as the Baystate Health Wellness on Wheels (WoW) bus and Square One, among others, have become our greatest teachers.
The WoW bus is rolling out to become our mobile classroom and reach deeply into previously underserved areas in both our urban and rural communities. Funded by a generous grant from TD Bank and run by Baystate Health, the WoW bus brings together students, faculty, and practitioners to learn from and with each other, while providing care and education. Through these efforts we are training the next generation of health professionals to see themselves as community partners — working alongside members of the community and seeing community members as experts in their lives and communities. Before the physical bus arrived, virtual WoW bus events commenced, offering testing for COVID-19 in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The bus also brought together students from medicine and pharmacy at the MLK Food Justice Fair over the summer. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, students were able to work to bring education to residents and volunteer distributing food. The virtual bus also responded to the need for increased, convenient immunizations in the preschool setting. Pharmacy students set up a mobile influenza immunization clinic and administered vaccinations to families who had not been previously vaccinated at Square One.
Health professions students enrolled in medicine, pharmacy, social work, public health and other health programs learn best practices in interprofessional collaborations at the onset of their training in preparation for a team-based model of care when they begin their professional careers.
Students also learn — from one another and from community members — about the importance of addressing psychosocial concerns in health care settings, resulting in more comprehensive care. Finally, students learn about the value of community partnerships and community members, shifting the traditional power imbalance from the provider to the community/clients, who are the experts in their individual health and the health of their communities.
We are excited to engage in conversations about health equity, interprofessional education, and collaborative practice with you! We will post to the blog monthly. Please be in touch with any of us if you have ideas for collaboration, education, and/or engagement.
- Sarah McAdoo, MD, MPH, Director of Health Equity Education and Practice, UMMS-Baystate, PURCH
- Julie Berrett-Abebe, PhD, LICSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work; Fairfield University
- Melissa Mattison, PharmD, Executive Director of Professional Affairs, Western New England University
- Kelly Lamas, MPH, Mobile Health Bus Project Coordinator, UMMS-Baystate
- Peta-Gaye Porter, MSW, Manager, Healthcare Workforce Initiatives, MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board