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Grant Helping Georgia Southern University Meet Local Health Care Needs

3-6 Georgia Southern welcomes STEM educatorsNearly one-fifth of Bulloch County residents do not have any health insurance. Additionally, many of those who do have insurance have a hard time just getting to a doctor’s office.

Georgia Southern University is reaching out to those local residents through a $308,000 grant to take free physical and mental health screening and education fairs to rural and underserved populations throughout Bulloch County. The grant was awarded to psychology professor Bryant Smalley and public health professor Jacob Warren, the co-directors of the Rural Health Research Alliance (a cross-college research and service group dedicated to promoting rural health).

Funding is being provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Health Care Services Outreach program to support the Community Health Access Network for Grassroots Education and Screening (CHANGES) project. The goal of the three-year CHANGES project is to increase access to health education, preventive screening and early detection by establishing a community network of educators, students, community organizations and churches.

The fairs will be put on by a consortium of departments at the University (Psychology Department, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health and School of Nursing), the Magnolia Coastlands Area Health Education Center and the Bulloch County Health Department.

‘Dr. Warren and I wanted to find a way to provide a service to the community that ties together our common interests in rural health and behavioral health. This grant lets us focus on providing a much-needed opportunity for physical and mental health screenings in Bulloch County,” Smalley said.

According to the 2008 Georgia Health Equity Initiative, an estimated 17.7 percent of Bulloch County residents have no health insurance at all  and that figure does not take into account people whose insurance does not provide coverage for preventive care and screenings. In addition, nearly 25 percent of Bulloch County residents live below the federal poverty level, making health care even harder to obtain.

‘Bulloch County residents face two major obstacles for accessing preventive care and screenings: lack of insurance and lack of transportation,” Warren said. ‘By putting on many fairs throughout Bulloch County, we’re able to take health screenings to the people who need them, instead of them having to come to us.”

Since the program will count heavily on volunteers, it will also provide Georgia Southern students with excellent hands-on learning opportunities. Students in public health, psychology, nursing and related disciplines will experience the challenges, as well as the satisfaction, of working in rural areas.

‘By tying in with student volunteerism, this project is designed to be self-sustaining  it doesn’t end after three years. This is something designed to continue for a long time, even after the funding has ended,” Warren said.  Smalley added, ‘This grant helps us start a long-term initiative to improve the health of Bulloch County.”

Plans are to begin providing the health fairs in early 2010. Bulloch County churches and organizations interested in hosting a free health fair may contact Warren at 912-478-2289 or jwarren@georgiasouthern.edu.

Georgia Southern University, a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University, offers 115 degree programs serving nearly 18,000 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. The University, one of Georgia’s largest, is a top choice of Georgia’s HOPE scholars and is recognized for its student-centered approach to education. Visit: www.georgiasouthern.edu.

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