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Reaching HEALthy

2016 Melanie Mariano (Nu'16)
Public Libraries as Hubs of Health Information

Philadelphia’s public libraries already serve as gathering places for people to read, learn a new language, apply for jobs, and access the internet.

If Melanie Mariano is successful, the city’s libraries will also be hubs for health information and preventive healthcare.

One of three recipients of the 2016 President’s Engagement Prize, Mariano will spend the next year working with the Free Library of Philadelphia system to implement her project, “Reaching HEALthy: Health Expansion Across Libraries.”

Through Reaching HEALthy, Mariano will be embedded in the Free Library’s Central Branch.  She will connect individuals with resources to address existing health concerns, provide preventive care tips, and offer in-house screenings for blood pressure, height, weight, vision, and hearing, along with advice on what to do if the results fall outside normal ranges.

Through Reaching HEALthy, Mariano will be embedded in the Free Library’s Central Branch.  She will connect individuals with resources to address existing health concerns, provide health education, and offer in-house preventive screenings for things such as blood pressure, height, and weight, along with advice on what to do if the results fall outside normal ranges.

“The library is a place of social capital; it’s a place people see as a safe haven,” Mariano says.  “If I can provide library visitors something similar to what a health clinic can provide in a less-intimidating environment, then why shouldn’t a nurse be there?”

Mariano’s inspiration for Reaching HEALthy came during the fall of her senior year at Penn.  As part of a community health nursing course, she and her fellow students implemented health programming in the Paschalville Branch of the Free Library.  While there, Mariano had several brief conversations with library visitors who lacked access to reliable health information.

  • Melanie Mariano, President's Engagement Prize Winner, 2016

The library is a place of social capital; it’s a place people see as a safe haven. If I can provide library visitors something similar to what a health clinic can provide in a less-intimidating environment, then why shouldn’t a nurse be there?

- Melanie Mariano, 2016 President's Engagement Prize winner

“If I’m having these small interactions in this six-week period,” she says, “I can only imagine how many stories go untold and how many individuals fall through the cracks, by no fault of their own.”

With support from the course instructors, including Penn Nursing Senior Lecturer Monica Harmon, her PEP mentor, Mariano set out to transform the course’s community engagement component into “something a little more permanent and a little more prevalent,” she says.

She established a partnership with the Free Library, whose leadership was eager to give visitors the chance to improve their health literacy.

“Our focus at the library has been on health literacy, getting information to people,” says Autumn McClintock, the Free Library’s strategy coordinator.  “Adding in this element of person-to-person care really provides another layer of depth to our services.”

Harmon, Mariano’s mentor, says she sees Reaching HEALthy as a way “to answer the call not only to have health information in the library, but to have someone who can help guide you toward resources to take the next step.”

Ultimately, Marino plans to work as a nurse practitioner in a community clinic setting.  She credits the President’s Engagement Prize with supporting her in pursuing her passion.

“I really think that if this opportunity wasn’t available, I would have just had this idea and figured there was no way to implement it,” Mariano says.  “The availability of this Prize is telling students, ‘What you see as important is important and you have every right to pursue it.’”

 

  • Melanie Mariano, President's Engagement Prize Winner, 2016

At a Glance

  • Student

    Melanie Mariano

  • Project

    Reaching HEALthy

  • Summary

    Mariano is partnering with the Free Library of Philadelphia to assist library patrons in obtaining health information, medical counseling, and preventive health services. Her project employs a “one-stop-shopping” approach that will actively disseminate health information, provide care, and allocate resources in an efficient way.

  • Hometown

    Bergenfield, NJ

  • Graduated

    May 2016

  • School

    Nursing

Connect

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