Mini Med School seeks to improve health literacy

Starting tonight, Chilliwackians can drop-in for a free "Mini Med School" in March as local family physicians give back to the community.

Starting tonight, residents can drop-in for a free “Mini Med School” throughout March as local family physicians give back to the community.

Now in its fifth year, the residency project is becoming an institution in Chilliwack, and last year received 60–80 people per session.

This time the series includes four courses, two hours each, and is held at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. It kicks off with a seminar on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention on Wed., Feb. 27, 7–9 p.m.

Following that, Chilliwackians are invited to attend the Why Don’t Kids Come with Manuals? seminar on March 13, 7–9 p.m., the Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures seminar on March 20, 2–4 p.m., and the Wilderness First Aid for the Weekend Warrior seminar on March 27, 7–9 p.m.

Family physician Dr. Chantal Chris was part of the original Mini Med School in 2008, when she was a first-year resident at Chilliwack General Hospital seeking a way to increase people’s understanding about their own health.

“Most people in the North American population, about 50 per cent, are not health literate. They’re health illiterate. This is a way to improve health literacy in Chilliwack, and hopefully from that, improve everybody’s health,” she says.

The series now forms an integral part of the residency program at the hospital. Most of this year’s presenters are finishing their first year residency en route to becoming family physicians, and are completing the presentations as part of their research project. Chris will be on site every session for guidance.

This year, there is a marked focus on children’s health, and the questions that all parents have. For instance, the March 13 seminar is geared toward caring for newborns, and will address such topics as how to know when children are sick, and how to keep them healthy.

Chris found that the initiative has been “amazingly appreciated” by the community every year for the different topics, and the time spent with a physician.

“You rarely get an hour and a half with your doctor. This way, they can get an hour and a half with a few different doctors, and in a group setting, where people ask questions they may not think of.”

Mini Med School seminars are free drop-in, no registration required. There will be light snacks and refreshments.