The Domino Effect

September 6th 2011 was the first day that we, as Philadelphia Health Corps members, began our journey of service for 47 weeks straight.  With time to digest over 30 of those weeks, and a total of 1,231.50 hours, I find it hard to express what this experience has done to evolve me as a person. As a proud member of my community I feel as though I have given my blood, sweat, and tears to assist as many underserved patients as possible.  Although I knew I wanted to work in non-profit after graduation, not until I had this experience did I become interested in public health. Serving has opened my eyes and I have loved most of it. There are times, however, when I feel that I cannot help everyone, or anyone for that matter.

My host site is unique from other health centers for the City of Philadelphia Public Health Department because my co-member and I have the honor of running the center’s Comprehensive Health and Wellness Program, an education outreach for patients. On a daily basis, we get to speak with patients to assist them with life sustaining medications. The Comprehensive Health and Wellness Program allows us to step from behind our desks and walk through the clinic to reach out and speak to all of the patients, young and old.

Since arriving at our center, we decided to change the way the program works.  Instead of passing out flyers on why one should be healthy, we interact with patients waiting to be assisted.  We handed out 2 ounces of dark chocolate hearts on Valentine’s Day to support healthy hearts, and have held live cooking demonstrations to encourage healthy nutrition.

The most rewarding feeling came on a Thursday two weeks ago.  My co-member, Paul, and I put on a live cooking demonstration (Paul and Robyn’s Healthy Kitchen). Because many patients are uninterested, we usually only interact with 5 or 6 individuals using our health outreach material. But with the cooking demonstration, we seemed to get almost two dozen patients in and out of a small conference room within 30 minutes. They chatted with us afterwards and even began to engage with one other on their own health concerns and the concerns they have for their fellow community members. Two women requested that Philadelphia Health Corps come and speak to organizations that they are involved in within their communities.

While it may seem like nothing, it touched me to watch our patients that didn’t know each other discuss concerns, health fears, and how they too wanted to share information with their community. It let me know that what we’re doing is worthwhile and even if I’ve only reached one person, that one person can go on to help another and so on…creating the domino effect.

– Robyn Foster, Philadelphia Department of Public Health

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