Local officials share information on community health care resources


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staff

Panelist Dr. Avery Hart, from the Erie Family Health Center, speaks to a group of around 20 people Tuesday at the Evanston Public Library. The three health officials discussed the local health resources available to the community.

Julia Jacobs, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library hosted a panel Tuesday that focused on the growing amount of local care available and how the community can access it.

The discussion was the first in a series organized by Hircules Health Hub, a project that brings together a new conglomerate of community health organizations,  said Northwestern global health lecturer Michael Diamond, who helped develop the project. The group will host talks related to public health in order to expand knowledge of information and available resources, he said.

Titled “Evanston and Skokie: In Sickness and In Health,” the event consisted of a panel featuring Evonda Thomas-Smith, director of the Evanston Health Department; Dr. Catherine Counard, director of the Skokie Health Department; and Dr. Avery Hart, chief medical officer of Erie Family Health Center. About 20 community members attended the event.  

In spring 2015, the Evanston and Skokie public libraries will both open health information resource desks at which NU global health students will serve the communities’ health-related needs, McCormick senior Anna Rietti said.

There is currently a disconnect between organizations that serve the community and community members who need those services, said Rietti, who is a member of Hircules.

“I find value in getting to know people and their stories, and finding ways to solve large-scale problems on a smaller-scale basis, which is kind of what we’re trying to do with this desk,” said Weinberg senior Brittany Zelch, also a Hircules member.

The event served as a platform to introduce to the community the idea of the incoming health resource desks, as well as to provide overviews of the information and services provided by Erie Family Health Center and the Skokie and Evanston health departments, Rietti said.

The city’s health department determined through a survey of Evanston residents that the most important health issue to the community is access to care, Thomas-Smith said. Counard said that with its own process, the Skokie health department determined that residents had the same health priority, followed by obesity prevention, tobacco-use prevention and the health environment.

The Erie Family Health Center, which opened near the border of Skokie and Evanston about a year ago, has the mission of providing affordable medical, dental and behavioral health services and health care to those in need, Hart said.

“Every day I’m seeing new patients, and each one has his own story or her own story, but these are all stories that revolve around not having access to healthcare,” Hart said.

In order to provide care for a region with a multi-ethnic community and a clinic clientele that is about 35 percent Latino, the center is staffed by a culturally diverse set of employees who all speak Spanish and has access to an interpretation service with over 200 available languages, Hart said.

Diamond said it is important for everyone to spread the word about community health clinics, such as the Erie Family Health Center and the Asian Human Services Family Health Center, which recently opened in Skokie.

“This collaboration is not accidental,” Diamond said. “It’s one of the things that really fundamentally is changing the health scene here in Evanston and Skokie … We have to get people to go and think of the (Erie) center as a medical home.”

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