WHI Community Outreach & Education Program

Health Policy Student Association leaders Olivia Alford, Katherine Autin, and Juliana Stebbins
Health Policy Student Association leaders Olivia Alford, Katherine Autin, and Juliana Stebbins

“Through the Washtenaw Health initiative Education and Outreach Program, we have touched the lives of nearly 400 low-income and minority individuals in Washtenaw and Livingston counties by informing them of their insurance options under the Affordable Care Act” says Olivia Alford, at graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (SPH) and co-chair of the Health Policy Student Association (HPSA) at the school.  Alford, along with her team members, fellow SPH students Julianna Stebbins and Katherine Autin, spearheaded this initiative to recruit and train 70 graduate students across the university to do the outreach.

The outreach workers hail from the schools of public health, public policy, social work, medicine, law, pharmacy, business and literature, science and the arts. They are trained to give presentations and one-on-one counseling sessions to help low-income and minority populations gain access to affordable, quality health care coverage. Carrie Rheingans, WHI Project Manager, assisted by Leah Hatch-Vallier, Health Policy Analyst at the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, conducted the training sessions.

The students they trained have worked with individuals and groups at the University of Michigan Medical School’s student-run free clinic in Pinckney, Grace Fellowship Church in Ypsilanti, the Manchester Community Resource Center, the Ypsilanti Health Center and the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District libraries among others. Ram Rao, a first year medical student and one of the student directors of the Pinckney clinic, feels that “our patients are now given a resource to answer their questions about the ACA and healthcare reform; one that could not be provided without [this project].”

“The work we do really empowers the individuals to take the next step and buy insurance on the exchange or enroll in the soon-to-be expanded Medicaid program” says Stebbins who is the Project Lead for the program. The project team envisions the program as an ongoing, sustainable initiative which HPSA will continue to operate.

The program won the 2014 MLK Day Award by the School of Public Health – a well-deserved honor!