Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tutoring/Mentoring at-risk youth IS a public health issue!!!!

The Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection ( T/MHC)
So, fresh off the heels of Novartis Pharmaceutical rep John Knight's volunteer spotlight article I thought it would be a good time to discuss the expanded role that health care providers such as hospitals and community clinics can play in supporting youth tutoring/mentoring. When discussing this issue my boss Dan Bassill loves to quote an article published last year by the Centers for Disease Control that opens:
"If medical researchers were to discover an elixir that could increase life expectancy, reduce the burden of illness, delay the consequences of aging, decrease risky health behavior, and shrink disparities in health, we would celebrate such a remarkable discovery. Robust epidemiological evidence suggests that education is such an elixir. Yet, health professionals rarely identified improving school graduation rates as a major public health objective, nor have they systematically examined their role in achieving this objective." The full text can be found here.
When seen from this perspective, it is remarkable that hospitals and other health care providers are not doing more to help support youth tutoring/mentoring programs , particularly because there are countless health care facilities located in and around high poverty neighborhoods that could be making a big difference in the lives of local youth. Not only that, but since we all know about the high demand for health care workers, even in today's economy, it's a wonder that more health care facilities haven't gotten involved in supporting youth tutoring/mentoring programs from a workforce development perspective. That is, by supporting youth development through tutoring/mentoring programming, hospitals can nurture an up and coming workforce to fill the diverse and critical staff positions in todays health care providers, while at the same time, making a positive impact in their local community.

A recent research study by the Lewin Group concluded that: "It is clear that sponsoring youth mentoring is beneficial to hospitals". So, if supporting youth mentoring helps hospitals achieve necessary goals, such as: workforce development, positive publicity in the community and chances to expose impressionable youth to the benefits of preventative medicine and healthy living habits which lowers costly emergency room visits down the road, why aren't more hospitals involved in supporting these types of programs? We here at the Tutor/Mentor Connection are trying to change that through our Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection initiative.

We see hospitals as potential partners with a vested interest in the health and well-being of their communities. They can play a fundamental role in creating spaces for youth mentoring programs as well as drawing resources to these and other pre-existing programs in their neighborhoods. For example, hospitals can use their large educated staffs to lead mobilizations that recruit workplace volunteers, provide healthcare support, and raise operating dollars for dozens of tutor/mentor programs near the hospital! Teaching hospitals can engage alumni and students as volunteers or as researchers to determine what strategies work best. They can also encourage leaders in public health to get behind efforts to get at-risk youth into college and their hospitals as nurses and doctors rather than as gang-related gunshot victims.

To get this initiative off the ground all we need are a few people who are passionate for change and willing to use their networks and talents to improve the futures of countless Chicago-area youth growing up in poverty. Please email me at chris.warrens.mail (at) gmail.com or call me at 312-492-9614 if you or someone you know would be interested in helping us out with this...and please see the aforementioned Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection powerpoint for more info.

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