With the goal of bettering both the college and local communities, the Beloit Public Health Initiative sprung up on campus last fall. BPHI’s current focus is raising awareness and reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections, and a large part of their efforts so far have been in placing and filling free condom dispensers at several locations in Beloit.
“I think it’s not only beneficial for the community, but it is also extremely beneficial for us students that are taking part,” Karen Jones’15 says. “To be given the chance to have a leadership role and take initiative in a project like this is very valuable.”
As a group, the BPHI (pictured above, it includes first-year through senior students) is currently developing a “Myth Busters” brochure, PowerPoints, and a game to be distributed in the Beloit community. The “Myth Busters” products will be distributed to churches and other organizations in Beloit. The aim is to identify—then dispel—misconceptions about STIs and HIV/AIDs.
“We want to use the brochure and other items as a way to combat the myths about STIs, HIV/AIDs that exist in this town,” Sara DeLong’15 says.
DeLong has also worked an art project with local high school students called “Taking Health Into Our Own Hands.” DeLong gave them a card listing a STI statistic; they then had to either draw a picture or use words to describe their responses. The products will be displayed in Community Action, Inc.’s location in the Eclipse Center.
Other projects include creating an ethnography of the community as well as producing informational advertisements about sliding-scale and free STI healthcare service providers in Beloit.
“BPHI is benefiting the community most obviously by offering free condoms and education,” Sarah Healey’12 says. “We will also be having an effect on the Beloit community over time through our involvement with local organizations who provide information and assistance about reproductive health in the community.”
Healey’s efforts have included writing grant proposals with Geneva Schulz-Weld’13. While they are still waiting to hear back on grants, BPHI has received an award from the Department of Health and Human Services for their work in the community.
“At first it was a bit discouraging because there are some boundaries between the Beloit community and the college,” Ashley Pettit’13 explains. “But, everyone that we’ve worked with has been extremely helpful, receptive, and encouraging. I think that we’ve all learned a lot from community members and organizations.
Effects of BPHI’s work will be seen mostly over the long term. Right now, they are focused on the process of putting out information.
“The Initiative works in a very reciprocal way,” Joseph Caldwell’13 says. “I feel that the greater Beloit community is beginning to understand the full impact STIs and HIV/AIDs have on affected individuals and their families while we gain a better perspective on how to work together with community members who have similar goals and values.”
“Sometimes it is difficult for new organizations to actually have any influence this early on, but we have really reached out into the community and the community has responded extremely well and is very encouraging and supportive of the work we are doing,” Jones says.
“It has been an eye-opening and incredible experience to be a part of such a dedicated group of people, and to learn what it means to examine data, build relationships with local community members, and design a project that contributes to our overall goal,” DeLong reflects. “I feel like I have achieved so much by being a part of this initiative this semester, and we are just getting started!”