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April 25, 2005
By Sarah Kennedy

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Appalachia READS Center, two partnerships housed in and established by the College of Communication, are expanding their partnerships university-wide.

Photo by Denise McGill"We're broadening our focus to bring in other colleges and schools within the university, such as the College of Osteopathic Medicine," Sharon Romina, ACS project coordinator, says. In the past, students from the College of Communication have worked with ACS on campus, focusing on a public relations campaign. The goal of the partnership is to educate the 29 counties in Appalachian Ohio who have some of the highest cancer rates in the state, Romina says. ACS is also involved with STAND, a youth-led anti-tobacco association.

Romina says she believes the partnership creates great opportunities for tangible learning while also helping ACS raise cancer awareness in Appalachia. "It is a very good learning experience for the students," she explained. "That's what the partnership is about."

ACS has worked on a variety of projects since its 2002 inception, and has most recently worked with O'Bleness Memorial Hospital to make an ACS Patient Navigator available. The Patient Navigator, Coleen Krubl, helps cancer patients obtain information about health, transportation, insurance and more. "It really helps to have someone navigate through the hospital system with you," Romina says.

Next month ACS is sponsoring a women's health conference titled "Forget-Me-Not: Women's Celebration." Romina says ACS wants to "reach rural women and help them understand medical issues and prevention." The conference will focus on nutrition, stress, prevention and more. "I believe education is the key to prevention," she says.

Photo by Neil OsborneThe Appalachia READS Center, which promotes literacy in 29 counties, began as a collaboration by the College of Communication, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Verizon Foundation. According to Appalachia READS Center Director Danielle Hopson, the center is "a collaboration of existing literacy programs and serves as a network to share the information that exists in order to enhance services that are already being provided."

Currently, Appalachia READS and ACS are collaborating with students for a health literacy project. Health literacy deals with the ability and awareness to read prescriptions, as well as the ability to communicate with doctors, nurses and pharmacists, Hopson says.

The health literacy program will "bridge the gap between residents and physicians, and help residents ask the right questions," Hopson says. According to Hopson, the right questions include: What is the problem? What do I need to do? and Why is this important?

Appalachia READS kicked off national TV-Turnoff Week on April 23 with activities for children at Albany, Glouster, Nelsonville and The Plains public libraries. "We want to remind students that there are other things to do besides watch TV," Hopson says. The event is in partnership with Ohio University Greek Life. Appalachia READS last partnered with local libraries and Girl Zone to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday with children as part of the national Read Across America program. Appalachia READS has been able to distribute books to low-income families this year, thanks in part to national nonprofit First Book.

This spring, the Central/Southeast Adult Basic Literacy Education Resource Center (ABLE) will be collaborating with Appalachia READS to train students from the College of Education to work with low-literacy community members. Appalachia READS sponsored a similar tutor-training workshop in February, when more than 60 individuals were trained on how to tutor properly.

"I look forward to participating in more events like the tutor training," Hopson says. "It has a direct, immediate impact on people's lives.

Photo by Denise McGill"One of the important things the Appalachia READS Center does is create partnerships by introducing people who are involved with similar projects. It's important to meet with these people, and the center provides networking meetings for them," she says. College of Communication interim Dean Greg Shepherd is pleased with what the partnerships have been able to accomplish thus far and expects service to the region to expand as the partnerships involve other units on campus.

"Former dean of the college and current Provost Kathy Krendl took the lead in establishing these partnerships and I am very proud to be associated with them," he says. "These two initiatives are making a difference in the lives of people in our community and the surrounding region. Such applied work in communication is one of the defining features of the college, and I am especially happy that we are expanding these initiatives to include colleges and programs from across the university."

For more information about the Appalachia READS Center, please visit www.appalachiareads.org.  To learn more about the American Cancer Society, please visit www.cancer.org.  

This story illustrates the extensive network of supportive partnerships that exist between the university and organizations in Athens County, and the impact these partnerships have on the region.

Sarah Kennedy is a student writer with the College of Communications. 

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