Community Health Center Honored for Services Assisting Minority Women

Community Health Center, Nursing, Awards, Collaboration, Minority Populations, Minority Women, Primary Care, Healthcare, Patients, Underserved Populations, West Palm Beach, Health Disparities, HRSA, FQHC

Karen Chambers, DNP, APRN, an assistant professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, assists a patient in the FAU/Northwest Community Health Alliance’s Community Health Center. (Photo by Alex Dolce)

By gisele galoustian | 10/21/2021

Florida Atlantic University and Northwest Community Health Alliance's Community Health Center (FAU/NCHA CHC), operated by FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, together with the West Palm Beach YWCA, recently received the “2021 Community Collaborators Award” from Nonprofits First, Inc., the leading resource for strengthening the administrative and operational capacity of nonprofit organizations in the community. Nonprofit First honored this year’s Palm Beach County nonprofit organizations at an event to recognize their contributions for improving and strengthening the community.

Among the honorees were Karethy Edwards, Dr.PH, APRN, associate dean of academic programs and executive director of the FAU/NCHA CHC, and Karen Chambers, DNP, APRN, an assistant professor, both within the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. They received this recognition for their untiring efforts to mitigate health care disparities among women from minority groups with limited access to quality care.

“We are truly honored to receive this award and recognition in collaboration with our wonderful partners at the West Palm Beach YWCA,” said Edwards. “By combining our strengths and resources to serve a common purpose, our collaboration is helping to provide vital health care services to women in West Palm Beach and throughout Palm Beach County, especially those from underserved and low-income populations with limited or no access to health care.”

The West Palm Beach YWCA, an organization committed to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, refers their clients to the FAU/NCHA CHC for health care services regardless of their ability to pay. Referred women are given free, quality primary care and behavioral health services, including vision and hearing screenings, body mass index (BMI) assessment and pediatric care for their children, when appropriate. In addition, center providers and FAU nursing students participate in outreach educational and health sessions on location at the YWCA centers. 

“Individuals from various racial and ethnic groups experience many health disparities and outcomes such as maternal mortality or chronic health conditions that could be prevented or addressed with programs like ours,” said Chambers. “Almost one quarter of the population in the community we serve is uninsured and many of them have chronic conditions. We are so appreciative that together with our partners at the West Palm Beach YWCA we are able to serve as a lifeline for primary and behavioral health care for this population.” 

The FAU/NCHA CHC provides pediatric services such as well-baby and well-child visits, immunizations, and screenings. Adolescent services include physical exams, screenings, and education regarding high-risk behaviors such as substance misuse, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, among others. The center also provides gynecological prenatal and obstetric services.  

Other services include geriatric care as well as routine sick and health maintenance, preventive care and chronic disease management for adults 18 and older. Diagnostic testing and laboratory testing services also are available such as cholesterol and HIV testing. Tests that cannot be performed in-house are sent to designated laboratories for analysis with deep discounts for patients who are uninsured. The center provides medication samples to patients when needed. In addition, a social worker works with patients to help them connect with pharmacy assistance programs, from which many patients receive their insulin and other prescriptions.

As an American Diabetes Association “Diabetes Certified Education Center,” services at the FAU/NCHA CHC also include diabetes patient and family education. Nutrition education is provided by medical providers and incorporated into primary care visits. An RN health care outcomes coordinator who is a diabetes educator, provides individual and group education on chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

These vital health services are available at the FAU/NCHA CHC as well as the Community Health Center at UB Kinsey in West Palm Beach, a permanent, year-round facility that opened last year. This historic area has a low income, medically underserved population.

Earlier this year, the FAU/NCHA CHC was the first university in Florida to be designated by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as a “Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike.” An FQHC is a clinic that provides comprehensive primary, behavioral health and preventive care to patients of all ages in underserved and rural areas. The purpose of FQHCs is to serve communities that may have financial disadvantages, language barriers, geographic barriers, or other specific needs.

According to HRSA, 30 million Americans or 1 in 11 people across the U.S. rely on FQHCs for care including 1.4 million homeless patients, 1 in 5 rural residents, 1 in 8 children, 1 in 4 uninsured, more than 1 million agricultural workers and more than 398,000 veterans.