This is a guest post by Darren Panicali, an undergraduate nursing student and the President of the Hunter-Bellevue chapter of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA). Darren is also the Community Health Director of the Nursing Students’ Association of New York State (NSANYS).
On Saturday, May 11, 2013, a team of undergraduate and graduate Hunter-Bellevue nursing students participated in the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-A-Thon. The rain might have brought the walk festivities indoors, but it sure didn’t rain on anyone’s parade! A vibrant health fair speckled with pink balloons, polka-dot ribbons and the smiles of dozens of tiara-donning princesses took place instead — all in celebration of the more than $37,000 in donations received by the club. The money will go towards health and nutrition programs for girls living in the historically underserved communities of the Lower East Side. Through the efforts of students, faculty, and administrators, the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing was able to proudly contribute over $1,100 to that sum.
But the nursing school did not stop there. Through a tabling initiative aptly called “Rethink Your Snack & Drink,” Hunter’s team of nursing students demonstrated how much sugar is in popular beverages and drew attention to how many questionable ingredients are in foods that seem tasty and harmless. The princesses in pink were certainly not the only ones learning. One by one, people of all ages, genders and backgrounds expressed their shock at the massive amounts of sugar in their favorite drinks and the mysterious ingredient lists for various treats. Even other tablers were baffled as they visited.
With rising rates of obesity, its co-morbidities and ER visits, it is becoming more and more important for healthcare to take up a stronger place in the community setting. By the end of the fair, it became clear to the nursing students that simple educational interventions can make a huge impact on the members of local communities, especially those at high risk for health disparities. Though their activities constituted a small step towards better health outcomes in the Lower East Side, the nursing students will carry the energy of their impact with them as they continue to address community health issues, until health equity one day becomes a reality for all.