New SUU Interprofessional Wellness Program To Serve Rural Utah

Published: August 28, 2023 | Author: Kierstin Holloway | Read Time: 3 minutes

Mobile wellness vanThe College of Health Sciences at Southern Utah University has started an Interprofessional Education Mobile Wellness Program to serve communities in the Beaver, Iron, Washington, Garfield and Kane counties. This program was conceived by Dr. Mark Siemon, an assistant professor of nursing at SUU, who secured a $399,000 grant from the state of Utah to purchase a mobile wellness van.

The resources offered by the IPE-Mobile Wellness Program will be tailored to the specific needs of the communities and partnerships they engage with. Potential services the program is hoping to offer include assisting with school health assessments, blood pressure screenings, and health education on subjects like nutrition and exercise, as well as screening for social determinants of health such as food insecurity and social isolation in older adults.   

“You need to start where the community is. In nursing, we do a lot of clinical activities in the hospital setting with our students,” said Dr. Siemon. “Here is an opportunity to take it beyond that, to where health really begins - in the community. So, the activities are going to be designed by the students in collaboration with community partners.”

The purpose of the program is not to replicate primary care providers but connect members of rural and underserved populations with services that can help promote health and prevent disease. 

The program's goal is to increase the health and wellness of rural communities and promote interprofessional education and collaboration among college students destined for health professions. 

“We talk a lot about interprofessional teamwork in healthcare, but we need to do more to provide opportunities for students from different health programs to work together to promote health and wellness," said Dr. Siemon. “This program is for all students that want to be involved in improving health.”

The Southern Utah Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and Utah Center for Rural Health Utah Health Scholars program are partnering with SUU’s College of Health Sciences on the IPE-Mobile Wellness Program to increase awareness among rural students in middle and high school  on job opportunities and educational requirements for different healthcare professions. 

”Southern Utah AHEC is excited for this partnership and the opportunity to provide communities with health education,” said Rita Osborn, executive director of Southern Utah AHEC. “Our pre-health students will greatly benefit from being a part of this outreach project.”

Dr. Siemon recognizes that it will take time to develop the program as partnerships need to be developed with community-based organizations already working to improve health and wellness in rural and underserved populations in southwestern Utah.

“We're hoping to get students, not only from the College of Health Sciences, but also students  majoring in like psychology or the arts, other students who may be interested in things like community development or social work,” said Dr. Siemon. 

Any students in the SUU College of Health Sciences, Utah Health Scholars, or who are taking courses related to the IPE Mobile Health Program, such as agriculture Science, exercise science, Master of Athletic Training, nutrition science, nursing, outdoor recreation and physical education are eligible to participate in the IPE-MWP.

The grant secured by Dr. Siemon funded the program’s conception and needs for the first fall and spring semesters, but further funds will be needed to ensure the program's continuation.

“Ideally, this van will be going out once or twice a week when the program is up and running,” said Dr. Siemon. “We're still looking for operational funding; we will still need to put gas in the tank and pay staff.”

Students and faculty who want to learn more about how they can participate in the IPE Mobile Wellness Program are encouraged to contact the Utah Health Scholars Program.

Community-based organizations interested in partnering with SUU’s IPE Mobile Wellness Program can contact Jennifer Liebert, at the Utah Center for Rural Health.

Tags: College of Health Sciences Nursing CurStu FacStaff Medicine

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