Health outreach for over 25 years

Queen’s Health Outreach now focuses on health education rather than medical treatment

Co-chairs Jenny Carwana, ArtSci '12 and Meagan Hamilton, ArtSci '11, prepare for the gala on Saturday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of QHO.
Co-chairs Jenny Carwana, ArtSci '12 and Meagan Hamilton, ArtSci '11, prepare for the gala on Saturday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of QHO.

For the 25th year, a selected group of Queen’s students will pack their bags and enter a community with the aim of educating locals about health issues.

Queen’s Health Outreach (QHO) is celebrating its anniversary this month with a gala on Saturday night.

Originally created under the name Queen’s Medical Outreach, the mandate of QHO has shifted over the years, said co-chair Meagan Hamilton.

“When Queen’s Medical Outreach started it was medical students that were doing more so research in HIV/AIDS and viral diseases and were treating people as well,” Hamilton, ArtSci ’11, said. “Over the years as it became a bigger organization it wasn’t about medicine anymore, it was about education.”

The organization changed its name in 2006 and now focuses on providing health education rather than medical and clinical services.

This summer QHO will send 38 students to four regions, including Belize, Guyana, Kenya and Northern Canada. Students also work in Kingston throughout the year.

“The main aim of QHO is to engage students on an active level ... supposed to be peer-on-peer. One of our strengths is students catering to students, and being more relatable. Lessons we teach will stick because we can cater them to students’ needs and not be so much of a lecture,” Hamilton said.

Each project lasts five to eight weeks and students are expected to fundraise part of the associated costs. Though there’s no required goal to reach, participants have to pay the difference if they aren’t fully funded once grants and group fundraising totals are taken into account.

“There is a process of re-evaluating the curriculum each year. The issues are constantly changing in the communities we visit. It’s an accumulation of the total years we’ve been doing QHO and new things are added each year,” Hamilton said.

She added that QHO tries to throw biases out the door before entering projects.

“Everyone brings their own biases to what they do,” Hamilton said, “but in our own education sessions we talk about scenarios to prepare peer educators for questions they might be asked in the classroom.” Jenny Carwana, who is also a QHO co-chair, said this year the organization has tried to bring an educational presence to campus.

“Campus outreach was mostly to increase education on campus itself, but we’ve been trying really hard to improve the Kingston project and QHO’s presence there,” Carwana, ArtSci ’12, said.

Events have included yoga nights and educational workshops, she said.

Carwana said QHO focuses on partnering with existing community organizations. “It’s not meant to be aid, it is meant to connect existing resources with people living in the community; to point out resources already existing within the community and also teaching the curriculum that we have to teach,” Carwana said.

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