February 8, 2024

Healthy Hearts student org and Wayne Pediatrics teach Detroit youth about nutrition, physical activity and more

Wayne State University School of Medicine students talk to children about heart health at a recent event.

The Wayne Pediatrics’ Children’s Health Collaborative and the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Healthy Hearts student organization teamed to educate children on heart and lung health at schools and community organizations throughout metropolitan Detroit in 2023.

The sessions were hosted at elementary schools, high schools, summer camps and after-school programs throughout southeast Michigan. Children were first given a presentation about general heart and lung information, followed by a series of three interactive stations. The stations included a pig lung specimen children could inflate with PVC tubing and touch with gloved hands, a stethoscope station where children could listen to one another’s hearts and investigate an anatomically correct heart model, and a nutrition station focusing on the amount of sugar in common beverages.

Healthy Hearts has been providing these sessions in schools for several years, but thanks to the CHC’s involvement, the joint nature of the project introduced a community outreach component previously unseen in the presentations.

A medical students helps a child listen to his heart using a stethoscope.

“The Children’s Health Collaborative is an initiative of the (WSU) Department of Pediatrics and Wayne Pediatrics that aims to address social determinants of health in children and families throughout Detroit. Based on the feedback gleaned from our community listening sessions, we saw an opportunity to collaborate with Healthy Hearts,” said Meghan Dwaihy, M.D., faculty advisor for Healthy Hearts and program manager for CHC.

“Parents and caregivers at these listening sessions told us they wanted more health education on topics such as nutrition, physical activity and behavioral health. Healthy Hearts had already been doing this type of education in schools, so we were able to easily connect them to community organizations like Brilliant Detroit, Care of Southeast Michigan and GOAL Line, to meet the requests of the community members,” she added.

The program successfully addressed community needs via two tactics. First, the CHC expanded the pre-existing Healthy Hearts program to community organizations. Then, CHC and Healthy Hearts addressed the diverse population of Detroit by integrating a bilingual component into their sessions.

Spanish-speaking medical students led by Molly Dahle provided translation and interpretation services for the Brilliant Detroit Southside session, which included Spanish-speaking parents. All slides were translated to Spanish and interpreters at the event spoke with parents and answered questions regarding heart and lung health, nutrition and physical activity.

Healthy Hearts will continue to visit schools and community organizations in 2024.

“Dr. Dwaihy has been instrumental in helping our Healthy Hearts organization expand our mission to introduce medicine to students in the Detroit area and start a conversation about healthy eating and lifestyles. Before, it was more difficult to find schools that we could partner with to work with these students. However, we are now able to connect more with the community through these partnerships,” said Neha Chava, a Class of 2026 medical student and recent president of the Healthy Hearts Executive Board.

Healthy Hearts will continue to visit schools and community organizations in 2024, and the Children’s Health Collaborative looks forward to connecting with other medical student organizations to broaden the health education being delivered to the Detroit community.

“One of the goals of Healthy Hearts is to bring more exposure of the field of medicine to students who may not necessarily know about health care professions … . There are still a lot of minority groups who are underrepresented in medicine, and we hope through these early interventions and sessions that we can spark a curiosity in medicine, to maybe even have students pursue it as a future career option,” Chava said.

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