Understanding Social Determinants of Health: Healy-Murphy Center
By Salwa Choucair
The Healy-Murphy Center is a non-profit organization providing teens an alternative route to high school diplomas with an individualized curriculum, counseling, childcare and health services.
Situated on the city’s east side, Healy-Murphy is located in an area considered to have one of the highest levels of poverty and childhood poverty in San Antonio, according to Bexar County records.
The clinic at Healy-Murphy is open five days a week and staffed with a registered nurse along with Kathryn A. Parke, D.N.P., APRN, CPNP, assistant professor/clinical in the School of Nursing. Besides serving the students, the clinic also serves the children who attend the daycare which is open to residents of the area as well as students who have children and staff members.
“I love adolescents,” says Dr. Parke, who is the pediatric nurse practitioner track coordinator for the nursing school. “I think they are probably the most misunderstood, least respected, least appreciated member of the population. They still need a lot of support, and I enjoy working with them. When I began at Healy-Murphy, one of the biggest influences on me was the Bexar County Health Assessment Report that pointed to many social and behavioral determinants of health that affected the area where the school is located.”
Today, Dr. Parke is part of a team of health care providers working to improve the health of these students. A dietician, a registered nurse, another nurse practitioner and a psychiatric nurse practitioner also serve this population. In addition, one of Dr. Parke’s doctoral students is currently screening students at Healy-Murphy to identify their health and wellness needs in areas such as housing, food insecurity, sexual health, health literacy, nutrition, and behavioral health such as depression and anxiety. All of these can have a huge impact on a person’s health, says Dr. Parke.
Furthermore, when working with adolescents, it is important to remember that they are experiencing a time in life when behaviors adopted now, often go forward with them into adulthood and affect their adult health.
“As nurses, we are patient advocates,” Dr. Parke says. “We empower the patient, and that same rule goes for the community as well. I think that is what makes us more powerful advocates, when we really understand our patients. When we can see the ‘why’ for some of the reasons they have health issues, then maybe that makes our advocacy more relevant. Really knowing your patients and being open to hearing their experiences and being open to finding solutions that are relevant to their lives makes us better health care providers.”