Campus News

Bowdoin Joins Community Health Information Partnership

Story posted April 01, 2004

Bowdoin College has joined the Community Health Information Partnership (CHIP), a local consortium that provides quality, up-to-date health and wellness information and educational programs to the public and healthcare professionals. Bowdoin becomes a fourth partner alongside Parkview Adventist Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital, and Curtis Memorial Library.

"We're delighted to be joining the CHIP partnership, and we hope our involvement will build on the College's strong relationship with the community at large, the institutions within the community like the hospitals and library, and the public those institutions serve," said Dr. Jeff Benson, Bowdoin's director of health services. "We're looking forward to being able to contribute to all those outlets through outreach to educate and assist with health issues throughout the community."

Bowdoin will benefit from the partnership as well.

"Being a partner in CHIP brings greater access to health information to the College community, plus it is a source for student internships in public health and community service," said Benson.

CHIP had a modest beginning in 1995 as a collaboration between Curtis Memorial Library and Parkview Hospital, when little more than a personal computer and a few CD products from the Mayo Clinic were at their disposal.

According to Steve Podgajny, director of the Curtis Library, "It was obvious [when we started this partnership] that there wasn't enough health information available. The Library was doing a lot of reference work for people. There's a real interest in and need for current health information. The population is aging, and people are very interested in taking care of themselves."

A major grant in 1999 from Community Health Partners of Parkview Hospital paved the way for what CHIP has since become, a robust partnership among Curtis Memorial Library, Parkview Adventist Medical Center, and Mid Coast Hospital (and now Bowdoin), serving the health information needs of the greater Brunswick community.

Over the last four years CHIP has:

  • Purchased over 2,000 books, audiobooks, videos and periodicals with a total circulation of almost 12,500.
  • Provided 24-hour-a-day access to online health databases.
  • Provided three traveling collections of health materials that are reaching the residents of Bath, Topsham, Freeport, Dresden, Bowdoinham, Richmond, Lisbon Falls, Wiscasset, Orr's Island, and Cundy's Harbor.
  • Provided health, wellness and parenting materials to clients of the Tedford Shelter.
  • Promoted the partnership through brochures, a health information kiosk at Curtis Memorial Library, and newsletters focusing on allergies, mental health, nutrition, teen alcohol abuse, and other subjects.
  • Conducted workshops on online health resources with librarians from Curtis Memorial Library, Parkview Hospital and Mid Coast Hospital.
  • Promoted health materials at health fairs sponsored by the 55 Plus Center and Parkview Adventist Medical Center employee day.
  • Co-sponsored Senior Passport, a project to promote life-long learning for seniors that contained a component to use online health resources.
  • Launched a program with the Jeremiah Cromwell Disabilities Center to distribute books on developmental disabilities to 13 local sites, including both hospitals and 11 libraries.

With Bowdoin College as a partner, the program will continue to grow in new directions.

A committee of Bowdoin students has been brainstorming ideas for health-related community outreach. Internships for Bowdoin students in the planning stages include going to the local high schools to address such issues as eating disorders, stress, and alcohol/drugs; health education programs at the Tedford Shelter; and visiting assisted living sites to provide geriatric health information to residents.

Kate McCalmont '04 from Barrington, Rhode Island, is one of several Bowdoin students involved with CHIP. A biology major with a chemistry minor, McCalmont is considering a career in public health and community health education after graduation.

McCalmont learned about CHIP from Sue Livesay, Bowdoin's director of health professions advising. Both women share an eagerness to educate Bowdoin students about the public health field and provide internships allowing Bowdoin students to explore health education in the greater Brunswick community.

McCalmont's strong belief in the importance of health education prompted her to take a leadership role in Bowdoin's partnership with CHIP.

"Bowdoin's becoming a partner with CHIP will send the message that Bowdoin is interested in health education and in promoting a healthier community," she said. "It is important for health education to become a topic that is discussed by students on campus, and that those students who are interested in health have a way to become involved in the community and contribute to CHIP's efforts to promote healthy living. In addition, the CHIP partnership will hopefully raise awareness among students about [pursuing a career in] the field of public health."

McCalmont sees the partnership as a two-way street.

"Because CHIP is community partnership, it is also important that the health needs of Bowdoin students are addressed," she said. "Recently issues surrounding stress, body image, and eating disorders have become topics of discussion among students and administration, and it is essential that Bowdoin recognizes the importance of healthy living."

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