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Topeka Correctional Facility, Washburn team up for women’s health fair

by admin last modified Jul 07, 2015 02:10 PM
In a collaborative effort, Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF), Correct Care Solutions (CCS), and Washburn University students and faculty from the nursing and criminal justice departments presented an educational health fair to women at the prison facility on April 11.
Topeka Correctional Facility, Washburn team up for women’s health fair

Inmates at TCF took part in a women's health fair at the facility.

Washburn nursing students provided the teaching materials and interacted with inmates, conversing on
various topics of health care as the residents of TCF filed through the roomful of booths.

“We really feel that education is the first step to promoting better health care among our population,” said
Kathy Schmidt, an employee of CCS who serves as director of nursing at TCF.

A Washburn graduate herself, Schmidt invited the nursing school to participate in the partnership because
she recognizes that the poor health practices of inmates derive from a lack of knowledge.

“If people don’t know where to seek care or what care to seek, they lose power to advocate for themselves.”

Nursing student Ashley Krass admitted that hearing the gates close was somewhat intimidating, but she felt
comfortable talking with the inmates.

“It is kind of a test of our knowledge,” Krass said. “We get to be the ones educating, and we know that so many of the inmates have a need for better health ed.”

Examples of booths presenting information included:  self-breast exam, childhood immunizations and access to care, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, dental hygiene and basic mental health coping skills.

Focus groups were completed with Washburn faculty and inmates prior to the event addressing target areas
for health care.  The feedback received from the inmates assisted the work group in identifying target areas for the health fair. 

“We met with two focus groups and talked about what they see as their top health education needs,” said
Shirley Dinkel, associate professor in the Washburn University School of Nursing. “Our goal is to publish the findings from the focus groups and the results of today’s presentation in a couple of professional journals.”

One inmate was chosen to assist the professional and student nurses in the organization of the event. Melissa, a CNA at a nursing home prior to her incarceration, said she was honored to participate in the planning.

“They asked me to give a voice for the whole incarcerated population, to help determine what they would like
to learn,” said Melissa. “It’s very gratifying to see people bettering themselves.”

TCF staff and Washburn faculty hoped to gather some basic information through surveys to determine future
topics to address in upcoming events. Dinkel said the Washburn staff has already been asked to share their information with other groups, including other prison facilities.

“We are very excited for the opportunity for our ladies to learn to take care of themselves, because part of
their success upon reentry will be to make good health decisions,” said TCF Warden Hope Cooper. "Empowering them in this area just gives them a better opportunity to succeed."

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