Eastern North Carolina is a rural region with high rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Many of the counties in this area have limited access to healthcare and fall into health professional shortage areas.
The Eastern Area Health Education Center Youth Health Service Corps provides volunteer training and education to high school students in economically disadvantaged communities in eastern North Carolina. Students complete six educational modules related to healthcare, health career exploration, health disparities, and vulnerable populations, as well as become CPR certified as part of the Youth Health Service Corps curriculum. Students are then required to do a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service in their community that addresses one of the disparities and/or vulnerable populations they learned about in class.
The Youth Health Service Corps program was launched in eastern NC high schools 4 years ago to recruit young people into health careers, and raise awareness of the health disparities that exist, including the shortage of minority healthcare professionals. In this short period, YHSC students have contributed 12,024 hours of volunteer service in underserved communities. Some of the volunteer activities include organizing fundraisers for breast cancer research, educating middle school students about the importance of exercise, and conducting free vision and blood pressure screenings.