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OHSU program that helps marginalized communities celebrates fifth anniversary in West Medford

I-CAN helps vulnerable patients, teaches students how socioeconomic factors affect health
trio of people posing for a photo, with their arms around one another
(Left to right): Senior OHSU nursing student Skye Hart, I-CAN client Jimmie Kelley and OHSU dietic intern Lauren Burns, at the Nov. 8 fifth anniversary celebration of the Interprofessional Care Access Network in West Medford. (OHSU)

For five years, Medford-area residents and families have been able to better access health care and other services through a program in which OHSU students work with underrepresented communities.

OHSU officials and their local partners celebrated the fifth anniversary of the OHSU Interprofessional Care Access Network, also known as I-CAN, in West Medford on Nov. 8. The I-CAN program seeks to help Oregonians overcome health challenges that are exacerbated by low income, homelessness, cultural misunderstandings and other hurdles.

“OHSU faculty and students have been proud to help bridge many health care gaps in West Medford for the past five years, and we look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come,” said Peggy Wros, Ph.D., R.N., a professor in the OHSU School of Nursing and the statewide I-CAN director. “In collaboration with our valuable community partners, we address barriers to health and health care while adding value to existing resources and services.”

Wros joined local OHSU I-CAN nursing faculty and their I-CAN partners – Southern Oregon Head Start, The Family Nurturing Center, All-Care Health CCO and La Clinica – in re-signing their partnership agreement at the Nov. 8 event to signify their ongoing commitment to improving health and wellness for Medford-area families.

Whenever a partner organization encounters a client whose needs can’t easily be met by existing agencies, they have an option to refer the case to I-CAN. Such clients may struggle to manage multiple chronic medical conditions and are further tested by social circumstances such as poverty or language barriers. They often are frequent visitors at local emergency rooms.

Heather Voss (2018)
Heather Voss, Ph.D., R.N.

OHSU nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, dietetics and other students work with Heather Voss, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor at the OHSU School of Nursing’s Ashland campus who is also the I-CAN West Medford faculty-in-residence, to schedule a home visit with referred clients. Students and faculty work with clients on their health care-related goals and then facilitate the steps needed to achieve those goals.

Jimmie Kelley
Jimmie Kelley

One of the more than 100 Medford-area residents who have benefited from the I-CAN program is Jimmie Kelley. He was referred to I-CAN after his health declined following a series of heart attacks. Since spring of 2018, OHSU nursing students have visited Kelley weekly to help him learn to eat healthy, overcome anxiety, control his diabetes and lose weight.

“Without them, I think I probably would have been on my death bed,” Kelley said. “I am so blessed to have them in my life and help me control my health.”

I-CAN was established in 2013 with the help of a grant from the federal Health Services and Resources Administration. It serves six communities in urban, rural and frontier corners of Oregon: Rockwood, Old Town Portland, Southeast Portland, Monmouth, West Medford and Klamath Falls.

More than 260 clients and nearly 1,100 students have participated in the program statewide. It simultaneously meets the needs of clients who can easily slip between the cracks and teaches students how social circumstances such as poverty can affect health.

West Medford I-CAN:

  • 17: Percent of clients who had 10 or more prescriptions
  • 20: Percent of clients with two or more family members with a chronic illness
  • 104: Number of clients referred
  • 143: Number of student participants

Statewide I-CAN Outcomes:

  • 51 percent of clients increased their medication literacy
  • 45 percent of clients improved their ability to manage pain
  • 50 percent of clients increased their ability to manage chronic disease
  • 38 percent of clients increased their access to food
  • 35 percent of clients improved their housing status
  • 30 percent of clients improved their mobility
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