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Nursing students promote health literacy through Little Free Library

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Residents of a Vermilion Parish town can book it to their local park for health care information, thanks to the University of Louisiana of Lafayette.

Nursing students enrolled in a community health course have installed a Little Free Library in Erath City Park. Its shelves hold books and other resources that promote physical and mental well-being, hygiene, diet and exercise, and preventive strategies for better health.

The project is part of Nursing 340. The course takes second-semester juniors in the College of Nursing & Health Sciences out of typical clinical settings and assigns them a community. 

“Instead of treating an individual, a town or city becomes the patient,” said Dr. Justin Fontenot, an assistant professor in the LHC Group · Myers School of Nursing who teaches the course.

“Up to now, students have been focused on treating the patient right in front of them. But in this course, they have to be a nurse for a whole community.”

This spring semester, 20 students, working in four groups, adopted Milton in Lafayette Parish and the Vermilion Parish communities of Abbeville, Maurice and Erath.

In each, they performed an assessment not unlike a one-on-one evaluation a nurse might conduct during a patient visit. Through observations and interviews with elected leaders, care providers, residents and others, students compiled data, identified a community’s greatest need, then engaged in a service-learning activity to address it.

Kylah Trepagnier is a nursing major from New Orleans. She was among the students who assessed Erath and diagnosed a range of challenges, including diet, mental wellness and physical health.

Trepagnier said improving access to basic information that residents need to make health decisions will lead to better outcomes in each of these areas.

“Helping people control their health and better themselves is the ultimate goal. We want to provide information about mental and physical health, so people can change their diets and behaviors so conditions don’t worsen,” she said.

To improve health literacy among the town’s 2,000 residents, students decided to install a Little Free Library in Erath’s City Park.

The benefits? Unlike a brick-and-mortar library, it’s open around the clock, every day, and it’s located in a heavily used, communal space that draws people of all ages. It can also hold information about various health challenges and preventive measures.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit based in Hudson, Wisconsin. Since its founding in 2012, it has chartered more than 125,000 Little Free Libraries in over 100 countries. More than 42 million books are shared annually through the program.

Patrons of Erath’s Little Free Library will find publications ranging from medical dictionaries to healthy cookbooks to easy-to-read children’s tomes on topics such as oral hygiene. You can help fill its shelves by visiting here.

Students designed, constructed and decorated the box themselves, and city maintenance personnel in Erath helped them install in the park. The box will be registered with Little Free Library under the name of UL Lafayette’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

Elected officials and residents will join students to celebrate the installation during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The park is located at 400 City Park Drive in Erath.

“We’re so excited,” Fontenot said. “It’s going to live in perpetuity there, in the park. It’s going to benefit the community for years to come.”

Photo caption: UL Lafayette nursing students work on the Little Free Library that will be installed in Erath City Park. In the photo on the left are Emma Tooraen, Kylah Trepagnier, Linh Tran, Lauren Trahan and Hunter Terro. Photo credit: UL Lafayette College of Nursing & Health Sciences

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