Youth ambassadors practice for a future in public well being : Photographs

Youth ambassadors practice for a future in public well being : Photographs

Youth ambassadors practice for a future in public well being : Photographs

Bithaniya Fieseha, a highschool senior, graduates from the Youth Public Well being Ambassador program run by Virginia’s Fairfax County Well being Division.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division


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Bithaniya Fieseha, a highschool senior, graduates from the Youth Public Well being Ambassador program run by Virginia’s Fairfax County Well being Division.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

Of all of the issues she may have performed on her summer season trip, Bithaniya Fieseha, a senior at West Springfield Excessive Faculty in Fairfax County, Va., determined to review persistent illness, psychological well being and speak to tracing. A few of her associates did not perceive the enchantment.

“I really feel like persons are like, ‘You wasted your summer season,’ ” she says. “However I loved it. I actually loved assembly up with everybody, going via the battle.”

She practiced taking temperatures, weight and blood strain readings on her household. Fieseha topped it off with an internship at an area well being clinic.

Her arduous work paid off. On a current Saturday morning, Fieseha grew to become certainly one of 14 highschool college students to graduate from the Youth Public Well being Ambassador program run by the Fairfax County Well being Division. It trains youngsters from underserved communities to turn into well being employees and prepares them for potential careers in public well being. The coursework was designed by the Morehouse Faculty of Drugs.

“I believe this program provides us a voice as a result of, as minorities, we’re in a position to see these disparities” in our personal environment, says Nayla Bonilla, a junior at Justice Excessive Faculty, “I noticed that there have been so many alternative avenues into drugs and issues we will do sooner or later that may assist our communities thrive.”

The coaching goals to assist shore up the general public well being workforce, which is in dangerous form because the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth 12 months. A wave of retirements is anticipated to additional pressure well being departments over the following few years.

“We have to not solely appeal to individuals into the fields of healthcare and public well being, however we have to appeal to individuals of coloration,” says Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, director of the Fairfax County Well being Division, “We want individuals from our Black and Brown communities to have interaction within the discipline so they can clarify to their communities what well being is all about.”

Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, director of the Fairfax County Well being Division, spoke with college students graduating from the Public Well being Youth Ambassador Program on the John R. Lewis Excessive Faculty library in Springfield, Va.

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Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, director of the Fairfax County Well being Division, spoke with college students graduating from the Public Well being Youth Ambassador Program on the John R. Lewis Excessive Faculty library in Springfield, Va.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

Coaching provides teenagers a leg up on future well being careers

The well being division is working with Edu-Futuro, an area nonprofit, to recruit college students with an curiosity in drugs from Fairfax excessive colleges and assist begin their profession paths.

“On the finish of the day, it is that they efficiently enroll in a university or a postsecondary establishment, the place they’ll be capable to get a level in a health-related profession – after which 4 years later, they get their first skilled job,” says Jorge Figueredo, Edu-Futuro’s director.

Jorge Figueredo, director on the nonprofit Edu-Futuro, tells college students that the Youth Ambassador Program units them on a path to careers in well being.

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Jorge Figueredo, director on the nonprofit Edu-Futuro, tells college students that the Youth Ambassador Program units them on a path to careers in well being.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

This system focuses on Hispanic, African-American and African college students from low-income households. In Fairfax County, as in a lot of the nation, these racial and ethnic minority teams had been hardest hit by COVID.

“There have been some actual challenges round well being literacy,” says Anthony Mingo, director of neighborhood well being improvement on the Fairfax County Well being Division. Combined messages in the beginning of the pandemic blended with historic distrust in medical establishments. “It created a depressing stew of misinformation,” he says.

Anthony Mingo (middle), from the Fairfax Well being Division, implored college students to think about careers that serve their communities. He is flanked by Jorge Figueredo from Edu-Futuro (left) and program supervisor Andrea Scott (proper).

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Anthony Mingo (middle), from the Fairfax Well being Division, implored college students to think about careers that serve their communities. He is flanked by Jorge Figueredo from Edu-Futuro (left) and program supervisor Andrea Scott (proper).

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

The brand new youth ambassadors are fired up about public well being. Fieseha discovered the hyperlinks between surroundings and well being illuminating. “If you do not have entry to a grocery retailer, you are extra prepared to purchase [fast food] as a result of that’s the closest meals supply you’ve gotten, which contributes to diabetes and hypertension,” she says. “How we entry our meals, how we make revenue – we do not understand how a lot of an affect that makes to our psychological well being and our bodily well being.”

Studying about some shady episodes from the historical past of medication helped Bonilla perceive how the medical discipline misplaced belief with some teams.

“[The lessons] had been speaking concerning the historical past of moral issues, which I actually hadn’t thought of, just like the most cancers cells from a affected person that had been used with out their consent,” she says, “And it simply made me assume how minority teams had been actually taken benefit of for medical analysis.”

Bonilla plans to prepare a well being truthful to deal with well being disparities; she thinks she would possibly turn into a pediatrician, to raised serve Spanish-speaking children and fogeys. Fieseha plans to begin an city backyard at her college and needs to turn into a worldwide advocate for HIV/AIDS in Africa and notably Ethiopia, the place her household is from.

Federal funding to spice up well being literacy

Each are among the many first graduates within the pilot program, which expects to have skilled ninety college students as well being employees by subsequent summer season. With a funds of round $240,000, in response to the well being division, it is a small sliver in a two-year, $3.8 million Fairfax County-wide venture to enhance entry to COVID data and increase well being literacy amongst weak teams.

The federal authorities is offering the funding. Fairfax County is certainly one of 73 native governments to obtain a grant below a $250 million initiative from the Division of Well being and Human Companies final 12 months. Every grantee is making an attempt out its personal approaches to enhance well being understanding of their communities, says Roslyn Holliday Moore, deputy program director for HHS’s Workplace of Minority Well being.

Roslyn Holliday Moore, from the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies, says the Youth Public Well being Ambassador Program might be tailored to different locations.

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Roslyn Holliday Moore, from the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies, says the Youth Public Well being Ambassador Program might be tailored to different locations.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

The hope is that initiatives, like Fairfax County’s Youth Ambassador coaching, might be tailored elsewhere. “For individuals who are whether or not persons are in a position to belief, maintain the belief, have interaction others, that is greater than profitable,” Holliday Moore says, “And it is not arduous to duplicate.”

Holliday Moore addresses a small crowd of oldsters and college students gathered at a highschool library for a commencement ceremony. “Don’t quit, keep the course,” she says. “You might be making a future right here.”

Afterward, there’s applause and tears of pleasure. A Peruvian dance champion performs a standard dance. An assistant principal sings a line from Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and assures college students he is not anxious a couple of factor — with them on the helm.

After some lengthy, bleak pandemic years, everybody within the room is glad to be celebrating teenagers getting their begin in public well being.

Christopher Thompson, assistant principal on the John R. Lewis Excessive Faculty, tells college students that he is assured in a future the place they’re in cost.

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Christopher Thompson, assistant principal on the John R. Lewis Excessive Faculty, tells college students that he is assured in a future the place they’re in cost.

Will Schermerhorn/Fairfax County Well being Division

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