Penn’s United Community Clinic Provides Health Care for Underserved Populations, Showcases Interdisciplinary Work

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820April 17, 2012

Sick people refusing to be seen by a doctor?

“I don’t have medical coverage, I can’t go.” 

That’s what some people have said for far too long.  But, one organization works to get Philadelphians the health care that they need –- with or without insurance.

For 16 years, the United Community Clinic has partnered with the First African Presbyterian Church, the East Parkside Residents Association and other community organizations to provide free quality preventive health care to Philadelphians who need it most. 

Housed in the Presbyterian church, located at 4159 Girard Ave., UCC is operated by students from the University of Pennsylvania’s schools of Nursing, Dental Medicine, Arts and Sciences and Social Policy & Practice and Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

The UCC draws upon the resources and expertise of this multidisciplinary group of students to offer a wide range of services to the surrounding community.  The clinic is open every Monday night from 6 to 9 p.m. and welcomes walk-ins.  If people are interested in guaranteeing a spot at the clinic, they can sign up at the church between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. the day they wish to be seen.

The clinic’s goal is to develop an understanding of the needs of the community and provide clinical assistance, education, resource referrals and representation services.

Working together to provide a holistic approach to health, these students are able to engage with members of the local community and put into practice what they’ve been learning in the classroom.

“With the economy as it is and with so many people without medical coverage, it is very comforting to have the United Community Clinic here to bring health care to those who need it,” Michael Burch, an East Parkside resident, says.

A patient visiting the clinic is greeted by a student from the School of Social Policy & Practice, who will offer to connect the patient with various resources that might be able to help with other aspects of their lives. Then, a Penn Nursing student or a student from the Perelman School of Medicine will take the patient’s history and perform a physical exam.  Afterwards, a physician will review the information with the student to decide on an appropriate treatment plan.

The UCC also offers diagnostic services including rapid HIV testing, glucose and cholesterol testing and EKG analyses.  Clinicians at UCC can administer flu shots and provide free pregnancy test kits.

In addition, the clinic runs a program focused on treating and reducing the risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. 

“Access to primary health care is a significant concern for residents in the East Parkside neighborhood.  Nearly a quarter of the residents lack health insurance; that’s nearly one-and-a-half times the national average,” Beth Stelson, a student in Social Policy & Practice and UCC volunteer, says.  “This leaves people who live in East Parkside at considerable risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and many other health problems.”

To promote healthy lifestyles, including bike riding and bicycle safety, the United Community Clinic and the Viola Street Committee will host a health fair at the 12th Annual Bike Rodeo, Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the 4200 block of Viola.

At the health fair, the UCC will provide free basic hypertension, eye, and dental screenings and encourage attendees to get their annual check-ups. 

Meanwhile, children will learn about bicycle safety  and how to tune and fix their bikes.  The event also features a bike obstacle course and a barbeque.

“This is more than a health fair and bicycle rodeo,” Heather Klusaritz, UCC faculty advisor and adjunct faculty in Social Policy & Practice says.  “It is an opportunity each year for the students, faculty and staff of Penn who volunteer at UCC to come together with our long-standing community partners and celebrate our work together to improve health care access in East Parkside.  It’s our chance to say ‘thank you’ to the community for welcoming our health-care trainees into their lives.”

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