Club Spotlight: Advocates for Salud!

San Antonio, Texas — As soon as Abraham Baistra, a student at Cast MED High School, heard about the new Community Health Club at his school he was curious.

CAST MED puts an emphasis on project-based learning, medical and biomedical education, college pathways and student organizations. Baistra, a college-bound senior who is interested in a career in medicine, was drawn to discussions the club was having about barriers to health in the community he lives in.

“CAST MED is a small school. We have about 200 students. At the meetings I learned about the changes that can happen in your own community. I thought it was a fantastic idea and I wanted to be part of it,” Baistra said, adding. “We are on the Southside of San Antonio. We learned from our guest speakers that this area is very underserved, and we need help with our health.”

Community Health Clubs are a peer-to-peer learning model focused on improving health literacy in underserved areas, so that people have the information and confidence they need to ask questions and make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Health Confianza, a health literacy initiative serving Bexar County, provides training, curriculums and support for Community Health Clubs across the county.

Jeanette Jacobs, a CAST MED teacher with a doctorate in nursing education, started the club after a professional connection introduced her to Jason Rosenfeld, co-director of Health Confianza and director of Global Health Education at the Charles E. Cheever Jr. Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics. Jacobs admits she didn’t immediately understand how the Community Health Club model could fit into a high school setting.

“I was really struggling with the concept of Community Health Club. I could visualize it in the community, but I was really struggling to see how it would work in schools,” Jacobs said. “A school is a community, and once I realized that, it fell into place for me.”

The group, which includes Jacobs and the school nurse, now has about 30 members. They are called Advocates for Salud (Health).

With direction from Jacobs and Rosenfeld, the students chose a topic of discussion – school lunches. They invited the San Antonio Independent School District’s Child Nutrition Services Department to learn more about how school lunch menus are designed, where the food comes from, and how nutrition is factored into every step of the process. At the same time, they were doing their own self-discovery and sharing what they learned with fellow club members.

“The students now realize that their school has a system for developing what they eat. This isn’t only a school district choice. The food and menu are state influenced and influenced by federal government. They are seeing a systems approach,” she said.

Both Jacobs and Baistra see a for future Advocates for Salud next school year.

Baistra would like to see the club members do more community outreach next year, helping to share the knowledge they gain.

“I think we could help in bringing ideas to others and to work in the community,” he said.

Jacobs is excited about continuing the club and sharing the nutrition and mental health curriculums with students. On top of this, she plans to use the clubs as an example of the importance of health education in schools. In her personal time, Jacobs advocates for the inclusion of health education at all public schools.

“My mission is to let boards of education know that health education should be mandatory. It’s unjust that not all schools are able to offer health education,” she said. “The Community Health Club helps to fill the gap and deliver health education to our students.”

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