Student Health Action Coalition

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Student Health Action Coalition
Abbreviation SHAC
Formation 1968
Type Interdisciplinary health clinic
Purpose To serve the health needs of individuals who are unable to access the health care system
Alex Sherman
Andrew P. Morgan

The Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest student-run free clinic in the United States.[1] It is run entirely by student volunteers from the Schools of Social Work, Public Health, Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, Nursing, Medicine, and Dentistry.[2] The students, under the supervision of UNC doctors and professors, combine their skills to hold weekly dental and health clinics, to provide rapid HIV testing services, to care for home-bound elderly citizens, to create sustainable community health promotion programs, to build an annual Habitat for Humanity house,[3] and to partner in activities with local health and social service organizations.

Wednesday Night Clinic[edit]

In 2004, the Coalition saw 740 patients, more than 600 of which came from the immediate surroundings of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. Of the total seen, 83% reported that they were not insured, and that the clinic was their only source of primary care. Since its establishment in 1968, SHAC has attempted to redress differences in health indices between minorities and North Carolina’s Caucasian population; in 2004, almost 60% of the patients seen were Hispanic, and the majority of patients seen had at most a high-school-level of education.

Education and outreach[edit]

In addition to providing basic medical services, the Coalition performs the essential function of educating patients about healthy behaviors. The organization relies heavily on the training and resources available to its public health students for one-on-one patient counseling regarding diet, exercise, smoking cessation and sexual health. Annual educational and disease screening projects include well child clinics, Fiesta del Pueblo,[4] and work at several other health fairs, including FestiFall, Apple Chill, and Effland’s Octoberfest. Ongoing outreach projects include diabetic foot clinics in Hurdle Mills and nutrition education and cooking sessions at Carrboro’s Club Nova.[4]

HIV testing and counseling[edit]

SHAC also provides free, no-needle, rapid HIV testing services by trained counselors. HIV/AIDS education and personalized risk reduction is provided for all clients through pre- and post-test counseling. HIV testing is available for clinic patients and walk-in clients. In 2007, it tested over 400 people. The Coalition also provides services for those that test positive. It has firm links to both UNC Infectious Disease Clinic and social services for HIV positive people.[5]

Pediatric healthcare[edit]

The Coalition receives and implements grants from North Carolina's branch of Reach Out and Read, which the organization uses to educate patients about child literacy and to provide pediatric patients with free reading materials. In 2004, SHAC performed clinic referrals for over a third of the patients seen, a fact which indicates the organization’s interest in connecting the patients it serves with other established medical organizations. It is also dedicated to integrating its patients into the existing primary healthcare system, and has been enrolling patients in the State Children's Health Insurance Program for several years.


  1. ^ "Medical Clinic". Student Health Action Coalition. 2007. Archived from the original on 12007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-04-11. SHAC's Wednesday Night Clinic is the nation's oldest student run health clinic. Since its inception in 1968, the clinic has evolved considerably while still retaining its original mission.  Check date values in: |archivedate= (help)
  2. ^ "SHAC: Student Health Action Coalition". Student Health Action Coalition. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-04-11. The Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) is a student-led organization whose mission is to: Provide free health services to local underserved individuals and communities, partner with communities to develop and implement sustainable programs, and create an interdisciplinary service learning environments for students in the health science programs at UNC. 
  3. ^ "Health for Habitat". Student Health Action Coalition. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2008-04-11. Health for Habitat is a partnership between Orange County Habitat for Humanity and SHAC. Each year for the past six years, Health for Habitat has paired with another community group (for example, a church or business group) to raise money, coordinate, and recruit workers for the construction of a Habitat house. 
  4. ^ a b "SALSA (Spanish-speakers Assisting Latinos Student Association)". Student Health Action Coalition. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-04-11. Spanish-speakers Assisting Latinos Student Association (SALSA) provides a forum for the practice and development of Spanish language and clinical interpreting skills. 
  5. ^ "HIV Counseling". Student Health Action Coalition. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-04-11. Free, rapid and confidential HIV testing can be provided upon request to anyone over 14 years of age... Trained student counselors provide education, prevention, and risk reduction information before and after HIV testing.