Community Wellness: School of Pharmacy Students Promote Health and Wellness in Hartford

Chinenye Anyanwu and a team of students partnered with the Keney Park Sustainability Project’s Urban Ecology Wellness Center to offer education on a variety of wellness topics.

The Keney Park Sustainability Project’s (KPSP) goal is to create the next generation of healthy, productive, and environmentally conscious citizens.  The programs are based in the federally designated North Hartford Promise Zone, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, and predominantly Black and Hispanic.  Their mission is to provide hands-on training, on-site demonstrations, educational outreach, and community collaborations that help families become more self-sustainable and environmentally conscious while preserving Keney Park.

Over the summer and through early fall, the KPSP’s Urban Ecology Wellness Center (UEWC) launched “Health and Wellness in the Park” to engage Hartford residents and promote utilizing Keney Park for wellness through a variety of “Wellness Popups” at local events. The main objective of the popups was to reach community members who do not have access to some health-related services. These community events were made possible through collaboration with CT AHEC, the City of Hartford’s Health and Human Services, Community Health Network, Inc., Hartford Health Initiative, and various UConn departments including Physical Therapy, Medicine, Dentistry, and the School of Pharmacy.

Chinenye Anyanwu, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice, connected with Herb Virgo, KPSP Executive Director, to explore ways the School of Pharmacy could collaborate and support KPSP’s mission.

“It’s important to help our students understand that healthcare is more than just services provided in a clinic – that at times we have to think outside of the box to meet people where they are,” says Anyanwu.  “Collaborating with KPSP on their summer popup wellness series made perfect sense. It gave our students an opportunity to further develop the skills required to communicate with people, beyond the four walls of a clinic or pharmacy setting, about how to safely and properly use medications.”

Anyanwu’s student group participated in all eight of the events in this summer’s popup wellness series and presented on a variety of medication related topics.  The topics included: medication safety, immunizations, device use, over-the-counter medications, the opioid epidemic, and the safe disposal of medications.  Additional services were offered as well such as blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, produce distribution, and nutrition education.

“The KPSP Wellness Popups were a great experience,” said student volunteer and Pharm.D. candidate, Dakota Sicignano.  “It was extremely interesting to talk to the community members specifically about how the opioid epidemic has affected their lives as well as have the opportunity to educate those who might not know as much about opioids.”

Students also enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside students from other disciplines towards a common goal. “I enjoyed working with students of other professions — as a pharmacy student, it’s not often that we get to collaborate with medical, dental, nursing, and physical assistant students,” said Aleena Thomas, Pharm.D. candidate.  “It can be difficult for people to see their doctor on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, so to have healthcare professionals come to people in their neighborhoods, in a place where they are comfortable, increases access to care.”

Both Virgo and Anyanwu hope that the KPSP and the School of Pharmacy’s partnership grows beyond the Wellness Popups to reach and support more of Hartford’s residents.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a facility that can offer services year-round,” says Herbert Virgo, KPSP Executive Director. “A physical building would offer another layer of privacy for those using our services. It would also allow us to offer a broader range of services and it would enable us to expand our reach.”