A York information-technology company has developed computerized kiosks that are being used to provide education about hepatitis to emergency workers in the Philadelphia area.
St. Andrew Development Inc., 140 Roosevelt Ave., is receiving about $150,000 from the Institute for Healthy Communities to develop the kiosks and to deploy them over the next two years, said Francis McKee, St. Andrew’s president. The Institute for Healthy Communities, which is part of the Swatara Township-based Health Alliance of Pennsylvania, promotes community wellness.
The money is coming from a $500,000 grant the institute received in September from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to encourage older emergency workers to get screened for hepatitis C, said Stefani McAuliffe, the institute’s director of development and community advancement. The kiosks will help provide that encouragement, she said.
“There is a need for more awareness of hepatitis,” McAuliffe said. “More education is needed to develop that awareness.”
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus and spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.
The National Center for Infectious Diseases estimates that 3.9 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Most people with hepatitis C don’t show symptoms and, therefore, might not be aware that they are infected, according to the center.
By touching the screen of one of St. Andrew Development’s kiosks, users can navigate through menus of information about Hepatitis C, including risk factors, treatment and getting tested.
Information is also provided about hepatitis A and B.
The kiosks’ content, which the New York City-based American Liver Foundation provides, is available in English and in Spanish, McKee said. An Internet version of the kiosks can be found on St. Andrew Development’s Web site, www.standrew.com.
The kiosks’ intended audience is emergency workers age 45 and older. Before greater precautions were taken to protect them, emergency workers often came into contact with the blood of the people they were trying to help, McAuliffe said. If these people had hepatitis C, their blood put emergency workers at risk.
“In the past, if you didn’t come out with blood on you, people didn’t think you did your job,” McKee said.
McAuliffe said her organization wanted to work with St. Andrew Development because of the company’s past experience with using kiosks to provide health-related information. Through the Wellness Link program, for example, St. Andrew Development is working with the American Cancer Society to develop and market computerized kiosks that provide information about cancer treatment and prevention.
One hepatitis kiosk has been placed at the Philadelphia Fire Department headquarters and another is at the Bucks County Fire Training School in Doylestown. Three more kiosks will soon be placed in shopping malls in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties, McKee said.
The kiosks are being placed in malls because malls are good places to access both emergency workers and their families, explained James Kruper, St. Andrew’s chief executive officer and chief technology officer.
“Family members need education, too,” Kruper said.
The kiosks will be rotated occasionally to hospitals, training centers, firehouses and other facilities in the Philadelphia area, McKee said. St. Andrew Development has the ability to track the usage of each kiosk, and McKee said this information would be used to decide when and where to move the kiosks. More kiosks might be deployed in the future, he added.
The Institute for Healthy Communities’ PEMA grant requires that the kiosks not be moved outside the Philadelphia area for two years, McAuliffe said. However, she added, the institute plans to seek additional funding to continue the kiosk program and expand its geographic reach after the grant period is over.
“There is certainly a need for this in other parts of the state,” McAuliffe said.