Over the summer of 2021, rising UNC junior Micheal Maizel drove to a variety of different Chapel Hill residences to provide free blood pressure and visual acuity screenings to community members.
Though he conceived the idea of providing the screenings during the summer of 2020, he was able to officially implement his plan through a partnership between the Disability Awareness Council and the Cardiovascular Health Education Campaign.
Maizel is the Community Care Program Director at the CHEC. He said he has performed many health examinations on different people in the Triangle area and partnered with similar community organizations.
The CHEC is a nonprofit organization that aims to spread awareness about cardiovascular health and support at-risk groups through research, fundraising and local programming.
College students Kush Chaudhari and Sid Kalala co-founded the organization in 2020.
“In response to the pandemic and seeing how cardiovascular comorbidities have such a drastic impact on disease progression, we thought it would be really interesting to look into cardiovascular health in our communities and look at it from different angles,” Chaudhari said.
One of the CHEC’s goals is to prevent poor cardiovascular health through the implementation of different programs to educate and help at-risk individuals with limited access to resources.
After Chaudhari created Nutrition in Neighborhoods in the summer of 2020, an educational program that partners with local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens, he reached out to Maizel for advice on creating a program that would actively help community members.
Chaudhari said he and Maizel knew each other because they both attended Biotechnology High School in New Jersey together.
Soon after, the Chapel Hill-based Community Care program within the CHEC was created to provide free health screenings to residents, per Maizel’s suggestion.
He also said they partnered with Hearts for the Homeless Carolina, a UNC club that provides education on cardiovascular health and free blood pressure screenings. Last semester, Maizel said the CHEC was able to provide over 50 checkups while partnered with Hearts for the Homeless Carolina and the Disability Awareness Council.
“It just seemed like a good fit to partner with them, because they already provided the blood pressure screenings,” he said. “By our organization partnering with them, we were now able to provide the eye exams as well.”
Maizel said the CHEC’s Community Care, with volunteers from Hearts for the Homeless, provides free examinations to Orange County residents on a weekly basis.
Health examinations are performed at food bank lunches from The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sundays and dinners from 5:15 to 6 p.m. on Mondays.
If a patient has abnormal blood pressure or visual acuity, Community Care refers them to the UNC School of Medicine’s Student Health Action Coalition to partner them with a licensed physician.
“We’re kind of this spark to push them towards that,” Maizel said.
Disability Awareness Council Executive Director Timothy Miles said the checkups give recipients the ability to keep track of their health in relation to blood pressure and vision.
He said that there was a time when he had blurry vision and decided to receive a screening from the CHEC’s community care. The results of the examination helped him understand that the issue was coming from elevated blood sugar.
Miles added that the screenings include educational follow-up questions, such as whether or not the patient is regularly seeing their doctor, as well as providing additional learning resources.
“I think it’s something we can all learn from, whether we’re disabled or not, about healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
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