OACA interns

OACA Interprofessional Internship Spotlight: Welia Health

February 7, 2022

Welia Health recently shifted to a private not-for-profit 501c3 organization. Nathan Evans, BS, from the School of Public Health and Hannah Saalsaa, BS, from the Medical School are conducting a community health needs assessment and facilitating discussions surrounding implementation strategies to meet identified community health needs.
They have researched underlying demographics, health factors, and outcomes for Kanabec and Pine counties. In Welia's 2016 report, obesity, substance use, and mental health were identified as the three main health issues. The team is nearly finished interviewing different specialty teams within the hospital and community working to address these health concerns, learning what resources are available and ways to support impacted community members. This is a crucial phase to enable feedback from people working and living in the community. The team will also gather survey data within the next couple of weeks.
“One common message we've heard through the interviews is that no matter how helpful a service is, it doesn’t matter if community members don’t know about it,” said Evans. “Additionally, when community members don't have adequate transportation or broadband coverage to attend appointments in person or virtually, those services become underutilized. It requires a coordinated effort to address health issues at the community level.”
Saalsaa added, “The solution is never simple when it comes to addressing public and community health concerns. It takes a great amount of teamwork and communication to establish and implement logistics, access and utilization of interventions. Community and patient education is crucial for health.”
The team has seen firsthand the interdisciplinary nature of what it means to come together to address health needs within communities.
“As a future physical therapist, this project has instilled in me the need to approach patients in a holistic manner. It's made me more aware of the need to keep a public health lens while practicing physical therapy,” said Saalsaa. “Learning about how a rural health care system works and seeing the passion different professionals have for their community has been my favorite part of this experience.”

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