Health screenings offered at health and wellness center Friday

Published 10:10 am Thursday, October 26, 2023

VALLEY — Dr. Linda Gibson-Young, a nurse practitioner with Auburn University’s Rural Health Initiative, was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. She talked to the club about an event that will be talking place at the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center in LaFayette from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. CDT (10 till 2 Eastern) on Friday, October 27th.

It will be a great opportunity for any Chambers County resident to come in for a free interview, health screening and high-quality services at no cost to them. It’s ideal for anyone living with diabetes or high blood pressure to come and ask questions about their medications, nutrition and how to afford their healthcare.

Auburn University faculty and students will be there to help with their lifestyle by offering advice on healthy snacks and the high-quality services that are available. Each person there will receive a free interview, health screening and wellness plan from a dedicated team of students and clinicians. People turning out are asked to have with them their medication list, medical history and vaccine records. Services to be offered include a comprehensive heath screening, medication review, weight assessment, blood pressure screening, blood sugar screening, cholesterol screening, nutrition advice and information on local support that is available to them.

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The wellness clinic is located off Highway 50 on the south side of town near Piggly Wiggly.

All participants will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $25 Walmart gift card.

Chambers County is currently in a two-year pilot program to offer affordable health care for rural residents. “I don’t want this program to end,” Dr. Gibson-Young said. “I want it to expand to more rural counties in Alabama. Auburn University is the state’s land-grant university. It needs to be reaching the people in the state’s rural areas.”

Gibson-Young said that Chambers County was an ideal place to launch this initiative. It’s close to Auburn and a convenient place for students to work with rural residents. There are some concerning health statistics about Chambers County. These include hypertension, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Of great concern is the fact Chambers County currently has the state’s highest rate of deaths due to cervical cancer. Chambers also had one of Alabama’s highest death rates due to Covid. A particularly alarming statistic is that approximately 70 percent of Chambers County residents have high blood pressure.

Gibson-Young is Auburn’s outreach coordinator for rural areas. She works with 460 undergraduate and 150 graduate students in the university’s College of Nursing. There are currently 45 faculty members and 20 staff members in the nursing school. “A lot of our students come from urban settings, and have little understanding of rural life,” she said. “This program gives them a chance to interact with residents from rural areas of the state.”

During the pandemic, the outreach effort was allowed to go beyond the immediate Auburn area. A teleheath station was located into what had been a vacant building off Highway 50 in LaFayette. At the time, the Vester clinic in LaFayette was hard pressed to solely take care of local healthcare needs. The Auburn clinic has helped lighten that load.

University outreach is committed to address significant health disparities across rural Alabama in partnership with Pharmacy, Nursing, Human Services and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with full engagement with the communities served. Gibson-Young said that Chambers County’s Extension Coordinator, Rachel Snoddy, has been great to work with, as have LaFayette city and Chambers County officials. The Wellness Center combines a state-of-the-art OnMed telehealth station with hands-on wellness care provided by AU faculty and students in health-related fields.

The telehealth station provides local residents with an affordable, private and efficient experience through a real-time patient encounter with an Alabama licensed clinician in a virtual setting made possible with the use of diagnostic tools that are available for practitioner-guided self-use.

Discussions on bringing this about began in October 2020. A memorandum of understanding to do this was drafted and agreed to by all parties the next year.

A total of 65 Chambers County residents made visits last month to the telehealth station. That’s not bad, but more residents need to take advantage of this important service. There’s clearly a need to get the word out about this. It’s a free service, and it can lead to better health outcomes. It may even save your life or the life of a loved one.

Gibson-Young and members of her team were recognized for their work during a break in last Saturday’s Auburn game with Ole Miss. They went out on the field and waved to an estimated 88,000 fans while the stadium announcer talked of the good work they are doing in Chambers County. They have been to many public events in the county such as the Christmas Merry Go Round in Valley and the Rockingfest in LaFayette.

“Being up to date on your vaccinations is one of the best things you can do for your health,” Gibson-Young said. “We can get you free access to vaccines at the Wellness Center. We are encouraging everyone to get flu shots and to be vaccinated for Covid. We love working here in Chambers County. There are some amazing people and businesses here. We are grateful for the partnership we have between the university and the county.”

Kiwanis Club member Jeff Goodwin said that he was at Saturday’s Auburn game and was well pleased at the reaction Gibson-Young and members of her team received from the crowd. “I told the couple seated next to us that we were from Chambers County,” he said. “He told me that he and his wife were from Indiana and were in town because their daughter attends Auburn. He told me it was wonderful Chambers County had something like the wellness clinic and that it was free to everyone who came there. It’s something everyone should be taking advantage of.”

“We want what has been started here in Chambers County to be a model for multiple rural counties all across Alabama,” Gibson-Young said. “We want to see continual growth and leadership support for rural Alabama. As the land-grant university, we have a responsibility for the Alabama’s rural residents.”

The clinic is open from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. CDT every day. “We have a drug take back program,” Gibson-Young said. “We can get drugs you no longer need to a safe place.”

Gibson-Young argued against the mindset that Covid is a thing of the past. “People need to realize that Covid changes strains,” she said. “A Covid shot will last you six months. Covid affects different people in different ways. One day you may feel great, and the next day you think you are going to die. It’s best to be protected against getting it.”