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World Health Day marks the importance of equal access to health care and how NUHS interns are helping

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During World Health Day, it's important to highlight the ways NUHS students are helping to solve larger health issues. This year's theme, equal access to health care, is among the priorities at National University.

Since 1988, NUHS has partnered with the Salvation Army of Chicago to provide many health care services to the underserved at no cost. At two Salvation Army rehabilitation centers, interns assist those participating in a 6-month drug recovery program. In the last year, NUHS has expanded naturopathic medicine offerings on top of chiropractic services.

According to Jessica Keating DC, ND, a full-time Naturopathic Clinician, who supervises interns at the Salvation Army Clinic, many of the clinic's patients have lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol. During the pandemic, NUHS interns are also helping treat patients who previously had COVID-19. For these patients, interns work on improving breathing capacity and reducing inflammation.

"From my perspective the kind of care that is needed is better preventive medicine such as diet and lifestyle interventions," Dr. Keating said. "Educating patients about their food choices, exercise, portion control and self-care go to the heart of naturopathic medicine."

With the increased ND offerings, interns have been able to provide more botanical medicine. The clinic has a very large dispensary allowing patients to receive supplements and vitamins free of charge during their stay. Interns also provide hydrotherapy, acupuncture and naturopathic counseling.

"The counseling is particularly helpful as it provides us a space to work with patients to make healthy dietary and lifestyle changes," Dr. Keating said. "Part of the session also allows patients to feel heard and have a space to share about the challenges they face building new healthy habits."

Smoking cessation is another common issue patients face. NUHS interns help through a combination of counseling, hydrotherapy, botanical medicine and acupuncture. Since cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, it is a particularly relevant health concern.

Starting next trimester, ND interns plan to do health talks for those in the first 4 months of the Salvation Army recovery program. These talks will focus on the determinants of health: diet, hydration, sleep, self-care, exercise, mental health, healthy relationships, etc. 

"We really try to focus on giving patients the tools to continue to improve their health beyond the 6-month program at the Salvation Army," Dr. Keating said.

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