CSUN students using grant to advance elderly health care

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To continue their work with elderly immigrants, Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elderly has recently received a $10,000 grant to fund a variety of services available through the program.

MetLife’s Project SHINE will assist a CSUN project that will involve schools, anti-poverty agencies and community centers.

“The university was awarded $10,000 to bring the SHINE-MetLife Foundation Health Literacy Initiative to immigrant communities in L.A. County,” said Tina Kluetmeier, director of Project SHINE at Temple University. “CSUN was selected based on local community need, its innovative plan to replicate SHINE in order to meet that need, and its engagement of a broad, interdisciplinary team of faculty, and clear commitment to quality on the part of Maureen Rubin, a leader in the field.”

The project is not only beneficial for those who take advantage of the services, but for students who take part in the project to learn from older immigrants, Kluetmeier said.

Maureen Rubin, director of the CSUN Service Learning Center, said the MetLife grant will expand Project SHINE at CSUN. The program, which is in its second year, sends about 25 students per semester into existing English-speaking programs and citizenship classes in adult education schools, community centers and senior centers. The students help elderly immigrants learn English and prepare to obtain citizenship.

SHINE and MetLife are giving CSUN students the opportunity to relate to and learn about the unique needs of their future patients. Dr. Debra Sheets and Dr. Lou Rubino, and professors Helen Dosik, Gretta Madjoob and Robyn Parks, along with Rubin, are guiding students through the process.

“(MetLife’s) goal is to increase the ability of elderly immigrants to access health care, communicate more effectively with doctors and other health care providers, and develop effective strategies for healthy aging and disease prevention,” Rubin said. “The purpose of the grant is to help MetLife ‘field-test’ the materials to find out if the curriculum and lessons aimed at elderly immigrants are effective, understandable and useful.”

Students are learning to work with the elderly on a one-on-one or small group basis, Rubin said. Depending on what classes the students are taking, they are using the lessons from gerontology, health or linguistics classes, and trying them out with real patients who need their help.

“A few other goals of the project are to help our students, who are future health professionals, learn about the health literacy needs of immigrant elders and to also help them develop cultural competencies that will help them work with these populations when they graduate,” Rubin said.

The MetLife initiative will allow students to design two health fairs that will feature health issues and literacy needs of older immigrants, said Sheets, co-director of the project.

“The health fairs are organized to provide bilingual health information to Hispanic elders and their families,” said Sheets. “I have invited a number of organizations to participate, and we have students from the College of Health and Human Development who are volunteering to assist us in this health education activity.”

Among the organizations participating in the fairs are Blue Shield, Kaiser, and Oasis Health Care.

Screenings, such as blood pressure checks, will be performed free of charge.

Sheets said many of the participants have educational levels at a third-grade level, which makes dealing with health concerns a challenge. She said they hope the information provided at the fairs will help educate the immigrants on a wider range of health issues relevant to them.

“(That way), they will be able to manage their chronic conditions more effectively and be able to access health care services when appropriate,” Sheets said.