Senior Outreach

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Abstract: brief summary of the background of how this project started, and what’s involved in it

The Grillo Health Information Center Senior Center Outreach Project was supported with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services under contract with the University of Utah. The purpose of the project was to increase health information literacy, in partnership with the City of Boulder, by providing on-site health information resources to the 1200 seniors who patronize the Senior Center.

Issue: Describe the challenges that the effective practice was designed to meet

Prior to the start of the project, we implemented a Needs Assessment, which found that 80 percent of seniors said they often or sometimes need additional health information, and 78 percent said they highly or somewhat value having access to additional sources of reliable health information.

Action: What actions were taken that were found to be useful?

To meet this clearly identified need, we stationed a trained volunteer researcher at the senior center. However, in the initial stages of this project, we found that some seniors were reluctant to utilize our services. We learned that it was critical to establish trust and personal connections with this population. By doing so, we found that the Grillo Center volunteer, in one-on-one confidential interaction, was able to provide caring support to help the senior citizen frame the health question, and understand exactly what information was needed. The more introductory activities in which we engaged to help seniors understand and trust our intentions, the more effective we were in establishing a welcoming presence at the project site and providing individual services.

Context: Where was the effective practice carried out? Provide details about the community, the people, the setting, etc

The Grillo Health Information Center Senior Outreach Project has enabled expansion beyond the initial senior center location to other senior locations throughout the community. The new locations are an outgrowth of the efforts and success of the initial NLM funded project. By our expanded presence in the two separate Retirement Communities we were able to serve the health information access needs of these senior populations. Additional partners, and interest, have emerged. For example, a physician and a physical therapist in one facility wish to explore creative ways to market to and attract resident seniors to increased health information and health care access. Another facility is targeting outreach regarding Grillo Health Information Center services to family members of senior residents. Working relationships have been enhanced and have opened doors to new opportunities regarding collaboration and outreach ideas.

Outcome: What changes occurred – to the community, those involved in the program/project as a result?

During the duration of the Grillo Senior Center Outreach Project, we have asked patrons to evaluate the effectiveness of our services and to provide some voluntary demographic information. We have analyzed the feedback from these formal evaluations. Ninety-seven percent of those who responded rated the quality of our services as excellent or good. Seventy-five percent of those we serve in the entire community are considered senior citizens. Eighty percent rate themselves as low-income. These are significant indicators of the value of Grillo Health Information Center to the more vulnerable populations in our community. It has helped us plan for, and implement, targeted outreach projects in particular neighborhoods. By taking our services to where populations reside or to their familiar environments, we are better able to meet their needs. Trust is a critical factor in making our resource available. We learned this early in the Senior Center Outreach Project. We also learned that our pace for progress does not necessarily reflect that of the population we are trying to serve, and that time is an important factor in building relationships and credibility.

Evidence: How do you know this worked?

We have found that our efforts to reach the more vulnerable, under-served senior population has expanded as a result of this project. This project has certainly introduced health information services to more seniors. Although we do not have hard outcome data on improvements to health literacy, we believe we are making a difference. The collaboration with the University of Colorado is intended to establish data that shows a direct relationship to Grillo Health Information Center and health literacy. The project is intended to develop metrics and outcome data in order to demonstrate the effects of our services on health and on health literacy, and on reduction of health care costs.